And kudos for using that great Ben Franklin quote!
(CNN) -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had trouble tapping into a group of hooded protesters at Georgetown Law School in Washington on Tuesday.
The university was one of the stops on Gonzales' circuit as he attempts to diffuse criticism of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program.
But as the attorney general tried to convey that the extraordinary circumstances of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks justified the program, the protesters turned to one of America's founding fathers for their rebuttal.
"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither" -- the words of Benjamin Franklin -- had been scrawled in capital letters on a sign that required four protesters to hold it up.
Gonzales didn't acknowledge the sign nor did he stop his speech as 22 protesters, including the four with the sign, stood with their backs to him during the address. Five protesters left the room during the speech.
Gonzales said that Congress was aware of the program's scope and that it had been approved "under the authorization to use military force" against terrorism.
His remarks echoed the comments of President Bush, who said Monday that he had briefed key members of Congress on the program.
Many Democrats and some Republicans have disagreed with the president's authorization of the National Security Agency to spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.
Some lawmakers have said they weren't informed of the program's scope during briefings -- nor were they allowed to go public with concerns because of the program's sensitive nature.
The attorney general disagreed with the claim that legislators weren't told enough about the program.
"As far as I'm concerned, we have briefed the Congress," he said. "They're aware of the scope of the program."
In a speech Tuesday morning, Gonzales said the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, which bars wiretaps on Americans at home without a court warrant, did not prevent the NSA program.
"It is simply not the case that Congress in 1978 anticipated all the ways that the president might need to act in times of armed conflict to protect the United States," he said during his speech at Georgetown. "FISA, by its own terms, was not intended to be the last word on these critical issues."
Critics have questioned the administration's legal rationale, pointing to the 1978 FISA law, which requires executive branch agencies to get approval for domestic surveillance requests from a special court, whose proceedings are secret to protect national security.
They say the administration could accomplish the same goals legally by taking requests for warrants before the court under FISA. Even if the case is time sensitive, the act allows authorities to administer wiretaps immediately, as long as they go before the court within three days of the start of surveillance, they say.