Holder Condemned 'Just Trust Us' Defense of Warrantless Surveillance in '08

Stephen Gutowski
By Stephen Gutowski | May 14, 2013 | 2:28 PM EDT

During his June 13, 2008 speech before the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy's National Conference Attorney General Eric Holder said, "To those in the executive branch who say 'just trust us' when it comes to secret and warrantless surveillance of domestic communications I say 'remember your history.'"

Holder then recounted how warrantless domestic surveillance has been used to intimidate civil rights leaders:

"In my lifetime federal officials wiretapped, harassed, and blackmailed Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders in the name of national security. One of America's greatest heroes, whom today we honor with a national holiday and countless streets and schools and soon a monument in his name, was treated like a criminal by those in our federal government possessed of too much discretion and a warped sense of patriotism."

The Attorney General continued by telling the audience how "Watergate revealed similar abuses during the Nixon administration."

Mr. Holder even went so far as to say that "those who tell us that we must engage in warrantless domestic surveillance [...] or that we will cripple ourselves in combating terrorism offer a false choice." "There is simply no tension, there is no tension, between an effective fight against those who have sworn to harm us and a respect for our most honored civil liberties tradition" he said.

Holder also warned that warrantless surveillance could actually hurt more than help in the war on terror:

"We can never put the welfare of the American people at risk but we can also never choose actions that we know will weaken the legal and moral fiber of our nation. If we do, we forget who we are as a country and we will face far more terrorists and not fewer."

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