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Leaking Against Gonzales

Paul writes below about Alberto Gonzales’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony. Gonzales testified that he went to the hospital to see John Ashcroft, then the Attorney General, in part to communicate to him the consensus of Congressional leaders that a particular anti-terrorist program, whose legality was being questioned after two years of re-authorizations, should be continued. The Washington Post tried to cast doubt on this testimony, but in fact the sources they cite make it pretty clear that Gonzales’s testimony was accurate.
Now the Associated Press tries another tack, in a story based on a leak from either Congress or the intelligence community. The AP’s story is headlined “Documents Contradict Gonzales’ Testimony”:

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

This is incorrect. The terrorist surveillance program allowed interception of international communications involving a suspected terrorist, where time constraints did not permit obtaining an order.

Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

This is wrong too. Gonzales offered to explain to the Senators in private, away from the television cameras, but they declined his invitation.
The AP reports that the leaked document, which comes from the national intelligence director’s office, says that on March 10, 2004, the White House held a briefing with the Gang of Eight Congressional leaders on the terrorist surveillance program:

A four-page memo from the national intelligence director’s office says the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.
The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details “the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.
It shows that the briefing in March 2004 was attended by the Republican and Democratic House and Senate leaders and leading members of both chambers’ intelligence committees, as Gonzales testified.

This document was created after controversy developed over the international terrorist surveillance program. In response, I assume, to a request from Congress, the memo lists all dates on which Congressional leaders were briefed on the TSP. This, the AP says, “contradicts Gonzales’s testimony,” but of course it doesn’t. The memo doesn’t say that the only program discussed at the meeting was the TSP, nor does it say that the TSP was the one on which the Justice Department (Ashcroft and Comey) had suddenly changed its mind, leading to the famous hospital visit. The document, as described by the AP, confirms Gonzales’s testimony that he met with Congressional leaders shortly before visiting the hospital; to the extent that the AP describes it, it does not contradict the Attorney General’s testimony.
This is really something of a mystery. When Comey testified before the Judiciary Committee, he refused to name the surveillance program at issue. In this post, I wrote that it was obviously the terrorist surveillance program. But that assumption may have been wrong.
It wouldn’t be hard to figure out whether the program about which DOJ changed its mind was the international terrorist surveillance program, or something else. There is a paper trail of legal memos, etc., on the subject, and a considerable number of people know the answer to the question, including at least one unimpeachable source, John Ashcroft. Given those facts, it is hard to see why Gonzales, or anyone else, would lie about the identity of the program, as the AP accuses Gonzales of doing. Given Comey’s refusal to name the program and Ashcroft’s public reticence on the subject, the only information we have is Gonzales’s testimony that it was something else. But, as I say, this is a mystery that wouldn’t be hard to solve.
Via Power Line News.
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