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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

 
Curly Lies

by digby

The Washington Post reports:

Gonzales's testimony provides more details about a controversial dispute that spring between Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, and then-deputy attorney general James B. Comey, who was running the Justice Department during Ashcroft's illness. In a remarkable appearance before the Judiciary panel in May, Comey testified that he was angered by the episode because he believed Gonzales and Card sought "to take advantage of a very sick man."

The dispute centered on an unidentified surveillance activity which Comey and other senior Justice officials had determined they could not reauthorize after a review of its legality. White House officials disagreed and moved aggressively to get the program renewed.

The Bush administration has refused to say which classified program was at issue in the dispute. Some sources have said the dispute was related to a controversial warrantless surveillance program operated by the National Security Agency, the existence of which was later confirmed by President Bush.

However, Gonzales reiterated today that the dispute was not about the program that Bush described. Gonzales also said he misspoke during a news conference in June, when he said it was the same program.

Gonzales said an emergency meeting was held on the afternoon of March 10, 2004, with the so-called "Gang of Eight," which consists of the bipartisan leadership of the House, Senate and both intelligence committees. Gonzales said congressional leaders agreed that the intelligence activity should continue, and he and Card traveled to George Washington University Hospital that evening to visit Ashcroft, who was recovering from gall bladder surgery.

"Mr. Comey had informed us that he had not approved continuation of a very important intelligence activity, despite the fact that the department had approved that activity over the course of two years," Gonzales said. "The consensus in the room was that we should continue the activities, at least for now. . . . We felt it was important that he knew of the opinion of the leadership." Gonzales acknowledged that, as Comey testified, Ashcroft declined to overrule Comey.


It's been assumed that Comey was talking about the illegal wiretapping program and if there is any doubt the intelligence committee can call him before them privately and ask him. It's certainly possible that there is more than one program, but I think this hospital visit was about the illegal wiretapping program of which we are already vaguely aware. As I wrote earlier, Whitehouse's pointed questions today led me to believe that Gonzo is being cute not that he revealed something new.

But the bombshell in this article is that just as he said there were no "serious disagreements" about the program in the first place, he's now asserting that there was "consensus" about the program from the gang of eight. Except, as usual, he's full of shit:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who at the time was ranking member of the Senate Intelligence committee, said there was no consensus among the "Gang of Eight" about the legality of the program, nor were the congressional leaders ever expected to give their approval to the program.

"He once again is making something up to protect himself," Rockefeller, now committee chairman, said of Gonzales.

Rockefeller added that he's unsure whether Gonzales attended meetings about the intelligence program. "I don't remember him being in any of these meetings," he said.

Tom Daschle told TPM Mucraker he doesn't even think the meeting took place:

"I have no recollection of such a meeting and believe that it didn't occur. I am quite certain that at no time did we encourage the AG or anyone else to take such actions. This appears to be another attempt to rewrite history just as they have attempted to do with the war resolution."
Nancy Pelosi's office said she explicitly told the administration she didn't agree with the program's continuation:

"She made clear her disagreement with the program continuing despite Comey's objection," Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly tells TPMmuckraker.

Nobody's heard yet from Harmon or the Republicans. Not that it matters. I fully expect that if they call him back Gonzales will say with a straight face that he wasn't at the meeting that never took place, and he's not sure who was, but he's sure that there was consensus among those who believed the program should continue.

And then he'll run around the table three times shouting, "Whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop! I'm a victim of soicumstance!"


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