Ethics: No ‘Serious Disagreement’ On Gonzales Lies
Ethics: No ‘Serious Disagreement’ On Gonzales Lies
Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have perjured himself by contradicting his own previous statements -- as well as the sworn testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey and current FBI director Robert Mueller -- concerning the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic spying program.
|JULY 30, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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No ‘Serious Disagreement’ On Gonzales Lies
Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have perjured himself by contradicting his own previous statements — as well as the sworn testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey and current FBI director Robert Mueller — concerning the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying program. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the extraordinary disagreement between top Justice Department officials and the White House that resulted in the controversial visit to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bed was not about the so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program” (TSP) confirmed by the President, but rather about “other intelligence activities.” Both Mueller and Comey, however, testified that the NSA’s domestic surveillance program was indeed the subject of the the Ashcroft hospital visit. Despite the obvious inconsistencies in Gonzales’s sworn testimony, members of the Bush administration and their far-right allies have denied that any discrepancy exists. Others have attempted to construct elaborate explanations in an attempt to paint Gonzales’s statements as “legalistic, [but] technically correct.” Fortunately, members of Congress have ignored the right wing’s thin defense of Gonzales and requested that Solicitor General Paul Clement “immediately appoint an independent special counsel” to investigate whether Gonzales’s statements constitute perjury.
OTHER INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES: The Bush administration has attempted to excuse Gonzales’s conflicting statements arguing that the highly classified nature of the program has prevented him and the administration from being forthright with Congress. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, “[P]eople are trying to…take a little sliver of [testimony], exploit it, and try to create a misperception here. This is what happens when you get into this world. … You can insinuate all you want, and I can’t fight back.” A Justice Department spokesman “said in a statement that Gonzales’s testimony and statements about the NSA program have been accurate, but that ‘confusion is inevitable.'” The fact is that Gonzales’s testimony is not “confused,” but is, rather, false. Comey and Mueller both testified that their objections were, in fact, related to TSP. Furthermore, a 2006 memo from then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) confirms that White House briefings concerning Justice Department objections to NSA intelligence operations were specifically related to the President’s “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” To date, at least four members of Congress who attended the White House briefings have publicly disputed Gonzales’s testimony.
A LONG-RUNNING PROGRAM: Yesterday, the New York Times reported that “current and former officials” of the Bush administration have said “computer searches through massive electronic databases” were the cause of the objections voiced by top Justice Department officials, including Comey, Ashcroft, and Mueller in 2004. “If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’s defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct,” the Times reported. Likewise, the National Review — despite previously calling for Gonzales’s resignation — framed, in their own words, “a convoluted story” in defense of Gonzales’s misleading and false statements to Congress. They argue that the program that officials at the Justice Department objected to was a previous version of what would become the “TSP.” Because the Justice Department objected to the NSA’s surveillance program before the President confirmed its existence and “narrowed” its scope, the National Review claims that Gonzales truthfully stated that the Justice Department objections were not to the “TSP,” but to a different program. This is a false distinction. Gonzales himself argued in 2006 that the legality of “TSP” has been analyzed on multiple occasions — after all, he said, “[y]ou’ve got a program that’s existed over four years.” Also, after Comey told Congress of his objections to the program, Gonzales said he could not comment on Comey’s testimony because it related specifically to the “program which the president confirmed.” The NSA warrantless program has existed for years and is the same program that Justice Department officials objected to in 2004.
GONZALES’S LAST CHANCE: Faced with such obviously false statements by Gonzales, four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Gonzales on perjury charges. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) explained in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement that “it has become apparent that the Attorney General has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements” to the Congress. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chairman of the Judiciary Committee, “sent a letter to Gonzales last Thursday giving him a week to resolve any inconsistencies in his testimony.” The New York Times wrote yesterday, “Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by [investigating Gonzales]. … If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.”
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