Washington Former Vice President Al Gore called Monday for an independent investigation of President Bush's domestic spying program, contending the president "repeatedly and insistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.
Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr.'s national holiday, the man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush was interrupted repeatedly by applause as he called the program "a threat to the very structure of our government."
Gore charged that the administration acted without congressional authority and made a "direct assault" on a special federal court that authorizes requests to eavesdrop on Americans. One judge on the court resigned last month, voicing concerns about the National Security Agency's surveillance of e-mails and phone calls.
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Tracey Schmitt, attacked Gore's comments shortly after address.
"Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America," Schmitt said.
Gore's speech was sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and The Liberty Coalition, two organizations that have expressed concern about the policy.
The former vice president said that Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales should name a special counsel to investigate the program, citing the attorney general's "obvious conflict of interest" as a member of the Bush Cabinet as well as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
Gonzales has agreed to testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the program, and he told a news conference that the president acted "consistent with his legal authority" to protect Americans from a terrorist threat.
Gore, speaking at DAR Constitution Hall, said the concerns are especially important on the King holiday because the slain civil rights leader was among thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government.