Ashcroft Contradicts Gonzales' Testimony on NSA Program
Last week, Perrspectives detailed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lying under oath regarding the Bush administration's internal debate over the legality of its NSA domestic surveillance program. Now, former Attorney General John Ashcroft in closed door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee confirmed that Gonzales once again lied to Congress.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) summarized Ashcroft's description today of the discord within the Bush administration:
"It is very apparent to us that there was robust and enormous debate within the administration about the legal basis for the president's surveillance program."
That assessment backs the recollection of Ashcroft's former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey detailed then White House Counsel Gonzales' visit to the bedside of the hospitalized AG, John Ashcroft. In March 2004, Comey served as the acting attorney general during Ashcroft's recovery from emergency gall bladder surgery. In that capacity, Comey had refused to recertify President Bush's illegal NS domestic surveillance program. On March 10, Gonzales and Bush chief-of-staff Andy Card went behind Comey's back to pressure an "extremely ill and disoriented" Ashcroft. Ultimately, President Bush intervened to make changes to the NSA eavesdropping program to avoid the resignation of Comey and others at the Justice Department. But clearly, Alberto Gonzales showed he was quite comfortable in bringing bedside pressure to bear on Ashcroft, a man described as "very, very ill; in critical condition, in fact."
On June 5th, 2007, Attorney General Gonzales confirmed Comey's account of the NSA program question during that troubled March 2004 hospital confrontation:
"Mr. Comey's testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago."
But on February 6th, 2006, Gonzales assured that Senate Judiciary Committee that this same program enjoyed unanimous support within the Department of Justice:
"There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed."
Once again, the miracle of Alberto Gonzales is confirmed. Though he has lied to Congress three times under oath, he remains the top law enforcement official in the land. And even more miraculous, he makes John Ashcroft seem like an honest man in comparison.