Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gonzales update

The White House has sent Congress a letter that apparently backs up Alberto Gonzales' contention that when he said there was "no serious dispute" about NSA eavesdropping, he may have been technically correct -- the dispute was, as I discussed yesterday, over the NSA's data-mining program.

Also, thanks to PatHMV for pointing out the transcript (pdf) of James Comey's testimony before Congress, in which Comey repeatedly refuses to identify the program that prompted a nighttime visit to John Ashcroft's hospital room. That means that in order to believe Gonzales you don't have to call Comey a liar, and vice versa, restoring the possibility that they're both telling the truth. If that bears out then it will end this particular sideshow to the prosecutor scandal, returning attention to the main question of who fired the prosecutors, and why.

Meanwhile, a few Democratic hotheads in the House, led by Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, want introduce a resolution calling for an impeachment investigation of Gonzales.

Even allowing for the fact that the resolution calls for an investigation, not impeachment itself, such a call is breathtakingly premature, and it has drawn scant support even among Democrats. Most importantly, there's no indication that the resolution, once submitted, would ever reemerge from committee. So chalk it up as simply one more piece of evidence pointing to Gonzales lack of support outside the Oval Office -- though Dick Cheney thinks he's doing a good job, too.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...James Comey's testimony before Congress, in which Comey repeatedly refuses to identify the program that prompted a nighttime visit to John Ashcroft's hospital room."

This means that the Dems on the Judiciary Committee....namely Schumer and Leahy.....who used Comey's non-specific testimony to IMPLY that it meant something else....were playing games here. They tried to twist what Comey was saying into something that would make Gonzales out to be a liar.

Those guys are lawyers; they know what they were doing. They were also privy to the intelligence information in 2004 and should have known what Comey was referring to...and what he was NOT referring to. Instead they tried to use it to nail Gonzales.

They continue to act in a very unethical and sleazy manner.

JP5

8/01/2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

This means that the Dems on the Judiciary Committee....namely Schumer and Leahy.....who used Comey's non-specific testimony to IMPLY that it meant something else....were playing games here.

Considering that just about everyone assumed that Comey was discussing the eavesdropping program -- which was in the news, which was what the hearings were about -- I think it's more likely that the senators misunderstood just like everybody else.

Anyway, all of that assumes that Comey was, indeed, discussing data-mining, not eavesdropping.

If he was talking about data-mining, there's a good argument to be made that the senators *shouldn't* have been confused -- that it was their job to establish such facts and not make assumptions.

They were also privy to the intelligence information in 2004 and should have known what Comey was referring to...

I don't think that's actually been established. The White House went out of its way to keep Congress in the dark about a lot of things.

For instance, remember Gonzales' claim that Congressional leaders were fully briefed about the eavesdropping program? The leaders in question dispute that, pretty much en masse.

8/01/2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger Tully said...

As Pat noted in the previous thread, Gonzalez repeatedly offered to expound on his answer in closed session, and Leahy repeatedly refused to take it to closed session so G could explain his answer. Big clue there. Leahy and Schumer were waving the bloody shirt and playing Gotcha! in their dog & pony show, not seeking truth.

Mike McConnell confirmed the program distinction of G's testimony in WaPo today. There are other undetailed classified NSA programs involved. Let the wild speculations begin! The CW is that it's data-mining.

The "Gang of Eight" was indeed briefed all along. How detailed those briefings were, how much considerations of Article II versus statutory authority came up, we don't know. Briefings are usually for informational purposes, not deliberative ones. If the Congresscritters involved did not ask questions, it's not the fault of the executive branch. You do not hand over full progam records, files, and details at a briefing. (The briefings would last weeks if you even tried.)

As of May 2006 the appropriate Congresscritters had received 17 briefings that related to NSA and/or FISA matters.

Gonzalez can still not be specific about still-classified programs in "open" hearings, even by passing reference, without committing felony violations of national security statutes. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Nor could Comey. Nor could Hayden in his '06 testimony, where he as well made it clear that more than one program authorization was involved. More than one authorization means more than one program.

It's useful to remember that what we see in the news and on the 'net, however well-sourced, is usually just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the (completely usual) ongoing partisan gamesmanship going on behind the curtain. For example, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at Bush's breakfast meeting this morning with Reid and Pelosi. The one R & P came out of with a new determination for bringing the statutory framework of FISA and "related matters" in line with modern technology. ;-)

8/01/2007 12:40 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

As Pat noted in the previous thread, Gonzalez repeatedly offered to expound on his answer in closed session, and Leahy repeatedly refused to take it to closed session so G could explain his answer.

Maybe because he didn't want to derail the public hearing already in progress? IIRC, he was open to the idea of a closed session later.

Could they have taken it to a closed hearing for five minutes so Gonzales could explain? Maybe, but doubtful, given the need to clear the room, round up other members of the committee, etc.

Should they have gone to closed session anyway? Perhaps. But that's a judgment call.

Am I sounding like Donald Rumsfeld? Oh my, yes.

8/01/2007 1:19 PM  
Blogger Tully said...

Maybe because he didn't want to derail the public hearing already in progress? IIRC, he was open to the idea of a closed session later.

He said he was, but he still never allowed it. Reframed: He didn't want to interrupt the dog & pony show. Breaking up the rhythm would have blunted the demagogin' and washed some of the blood off the shirt he was waving. And going to closed session would have dissolved plausible deniability as to what G was actually saying.

Pretty standard political practice in a Gotcha! hunt, actually. Seen both parties use it in so many hearings at so many levels of government I'm just taken aback a little when people think of it as anything else. But hey, I'm a cycnic.

8/01/2007 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Considering that just about everyone assumed that Comey was discussing the eavesdropping program -- which was in the news, which was what the hearings were about -- I think it's more likely that the senators misunderstood just like everybody else."

No....I think they were lying. In fact, I say let's start perjury proceedings. (wink,wink) BTW, how do you think all that was making the news front page? It was most likely because Leahy and Schumer was supplying it for the headlines. After all, that's what you do in a witch hunt; you try to get the public to believe what you are claiming.

"Gonzales' claim that Congressional leaders were fully briefed about the eavesdropping program? The leaders in question dispute that, pretty much en masse."

Only the top leaders were briefed on some of it. That would have been Rockefeller and I don't think he's denied ever getting briefed on it. And the reason they only briefed the top one or two is because Senators cannot keep their mouths shut and keep from going to the press with issues of national security.

JP5

8/01/2007 9:30 PM  

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