August 1st, 2007
03:07 PM ET
9 years ago

Gonzales tries to set record straight

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

WASHINGTON (CNN) - With a potential perjury threat hanging over him, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales late Wednesday sent a letter to Senate leaders acknowledging he "may have created confusion" in his previous testimony but insisted he did not mean to mislead Senators and was "determined to address any such impression."

In a two-page letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales defended his testimony while conceding his language in describing highly classified National Security Agency surveillance activities had not been clear.

"I am deeply concerned with suggestions that my testimony was misleading, and am determined to address any such impression," Gonzales told Leahy.

"I recognize that the use of the term 'Terrorist Surveillance Program' and my shorthand reference to the 'program' publicly 'described by the President' may have created confusion, particularly for those who are knowledgeable about the NSA activities authorized in the presidential order described by the DNI, and who may be accustomed to thinking of them or
referring to them together as a single NSA 'program.'"

The distinction of whether there was only one program or whether "other intelligence activities" constituted a separate program from the confirmed Terrorist Surveillance Program is critical. Gonzales had insisted under oath that there had been no dissent within the administration over the President's program. Later, his former Deputy James Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller testified there had been intense debate within the administration.

Gonzales testified that there was no dissent over the warrantless eavesdropping program acknowledged by President Bush in December 2005 and that the dissent came over "other intelligence activities" which have not been revealed.

On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell sent a letter to the committee explaining that the warrantless eavesdropping program is "the only aspect" of surveillance activities run by the NSA which can be discussed publicly.

Gonzales said if Leahy continues to have questions, the Justice Department would arrange a special briefing for him - a move Leahy rejected earlier this week.

In response to the letter, Leahy indicated he is still not satisfied.

"The attorney general's legalistic explanation of his misleading testimony under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is not what one should expect from the top law enforcement officer of the United States. It is time for full candor to enforce the law and promote justice, rather than word parsing," Leahy said.

"The attorney general has until the end of this week to correct and supplement his testimony. I hope he will take that opportunity to clarify the many issues on which he appears not to have been forthcoming and to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people the whole truth," the senator said.

Filed under: Alberto Gonzales
soundoff (15 Responses)

    Wow! Too bad members of the Bush Administration have zero credibility.

    You made you bed, now lie in it.

    August 1, 2007 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  2. James, Phoenix AZ

    Leahy rejected a special briefing about the non-public program?

    I guess it's more important to cry foul than hearing the truth?

    How about Mr Leahy invite the NSA over to publically discuss ALL the efforts we're making to fight terrorist activity. Between Leahy and Hillary, we can gut any progress made in one fell swoop.

    Good Work, Patrick!

    August 1, 2007 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  3. David Pippin, Santa Rosa, CA

    I'm not sure Gonzales is capable of knowing "what" the truth is. It appears "truth" is relative. I would NOT be surprised, if Gonzales were asked for a definition of the word, that he would hem and ha and say something brilliant like, "that depends upon the situation, etc..." Then, when asked if he EVER knew the meaning of the word, he would hem and hah some more. Finally, when pushed on the issue, he would say "I truthfully don't recall."

    GWB, Cheney & Gonzales a.k.a. The Three Stooges

    August 1, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. cliff jones, honolulu hi

    He's correct about one thing; he does cause a lot of confusion. He needs to resign or be impeached. If he is impeached then he needs to be charged with serious crimes against this country's constitution.

    August 1, 2007 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  5. Andrew, Miami, FL

    What better example of finicky word-parsing than this attempt to "clarify":

    I recognize that the use of the term ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program’ and my shorthand reference to the ‘program’ publicly ‘described by the President’ may have created confusion, particularly for those who are knowledgeable about the NSA activities authorized in the presidential order described by the DNI, and who may be accustomed to thinking of them or
    referring to them together as a single NSA ‘program.’”

    August 1, 2007 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  6. Sally

    I don't know why he is worried about potential perjury charges. Shrub will get him off just as he did with Libby.

    August 1, 2007 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  7. Bill, Ridgefield, CT

    Someone tell Gonzo what the meaning of "perjury" is...

    August 2, 2007 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  8. David, Zenica, Bosnia

    The only thing part of the Bush administration that shows any competence is when they use the "I can't recall" statement. Protects liars from perjury.

    August 2, 2007 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  9. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Stop it, Gonzo, you're killing us with your song and dance. Why not just slip back to your Lone Star casa over the August Congressional break so you're not here to impeach when they get back?

    August 2, 2007 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  10. Jeff, Houston, Texas

    No appeal, even if you decide to tell the truth this time. If this were anyone else, it would be purjury. Hang 'em.

    August 2, 2007 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  11. dave montclair, nj

    pants on fire.

    August 2, 2007 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Edward Lathrop, New Milford, CT

    Reading these comments have reduced me to tears. It is unbelievable how mean some people are acting.

    Alberto Gonzales is about as straight forward as you can get. There are some things he's dealing with that are classified, so he has to walk a fine line.

    I feel it is unimportant politicians in the senate are playing "gotcha politics," they always do. It's just too bad they have become so spiteful and vile. All dignity and decorum has been lost.

    I guess that's the way it is with these guys when they're trying to annihilate their opponent.

    As for the those making the comments in this thread, I wish they would think hard about this issue before they jump on a bandwagon that appears to be heading to hell.

    August 2, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  13. Eddie, Los Angeles, Ca

    This man and others in the Administration (The Bushies) should be charged with treason and placed in front of a firing squad.

    August 3, 2007 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  14. lipper AMERICAN

    Can you say pathological liar boys and girls?

    August 4, 2007 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  15. Ron Nebraska

    Can you say pathological liar boys and girls?

    August 4, 2007 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |