Curiouser and Curiouser

The Democrats are going completely insane over Alberto Gonzales. Today four Democratic Senators released a list of items of false testimony that they claim Gonzales gave to various committees, and called for the appointment of a special prosecutor and a perjury investigation.
The centerpiece of the Democrats’ claims is Gonzales’s testimony earlier this week that the subject of disagreement inside the Justice Department that gave rise to his visit to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the hospital was “not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people,” but rather was about “other intelligence activities.” Earlier today, FBI Director Robert Mueller seemed to contradict Gonzales when he testified before a House committee that his impression was that the hospital visit did relate to the terrorist surveillance program. This was hearsay on Mueller’s part, since he was not present at the interview, but arrived shortly after. He apparently got the impression that the TSP program was involved from Ashcroft.
Mueller’s testimony was actually rather equivocal:

“Did you have an understanding that the conversation was on TSP?” asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas in a round of questioning that may have sounded to listeners like bureaucratic alphabet soup.
“I had an understanding the discussion was on a NSA program, yes,” Mueller answered.
Jackson sought to clarify: “We use ‘TSP,’ we use ‘warrantless wiretapping,’ so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?”
“The discussion was on a national NSA program that has been much discussed, yes,” Mueller responded.

I have no idea whether Mueller knows the difference between one NSA program and another; Gonzales may well be drawing a distinction between the “program that the President announced to the American people” and a second, perhaps related but still-secret program. It strikes me as extremely unlikely that Gonzales is lying about this, although he may be drawing a distinction that Chuck Schumer would consider subtle. There are two reasons for this: first, other individuals and documents would definitively answer the question, so it would be foolish to lie, and, second, I can’t see any reason why it would make a difference. Who cares whether the hospital visit was about the NSA terrorist surveillance program that President Bush made public, or another NSA terrorist surveillance program that the President didn’t make public? The idea that Gonzales would commit perjury on this point seems ludicrous.
The Senators’ second example of Gonzales’s supposedly false testimony in the linked article has to do with the firings of several U.S. Attorneys. Gonzales testified that “I haven

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