Today the New York Times filled in the blanks on Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. As we discussed in detail here and here, Gonzales testified that he had visited John Ashcroft in the hospital to try to resolve a legal dispute that had developed over an intelligence program, but that the program in question was not the “terrorist surveillance program” that had been confirmed by President Bush, i.e., the interception of international communications where one participant is associated with al Qaeda. About that program, Gonzales said there had been no serious legal question.
This testimony was met with incredulity by the Senators. “Do you expect us to believe that?” Arlen Spector asked. Committee members Schumer and Leahy flatly accused Gonzales of lying, and called for a special prosecutor to carry out a perjury investigation. One thing I could never understand was why anyone cares: what difference would it make if Gonzales’s hospital visit related to the “terrorist surveillance program,” or to some other intelligence activity? And what reason would Gonzales have to lie about that fact?
Today the Times confirms that Gonzales told the truth. The legal dispute that broke out in 2004 was about the NSA’s “data mining” project, in which databases of telephone records were reviewed for patterns suggestive of terrorist cells:
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency