Attorney General Alberto Gonzales replies to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s invitation to “correct and supplement” his testimony–Senatespeak for giving him one last chance to avoid a perjury charge–with a two-page letter in which he writes he is “deeply concerned with suggestions that my testimony was misleading, and am determined to address any such impression.” His explanation:
At my July 24th public hearing, the Judiciary Committee asked questions about sensitive intelligence matters. In my public testimony, including on July 24th, I have tried to provide frank answers without disclosing classified information. I was discussing only that particular aspect of
the NSA activities that the President has publicly acknowledged, and that we have called the
Terrorist Surveillance Program, as defined in the DNI’s letter. 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
Essentially, it looks like he’s blaming the committee for not being sharp enough to catch his drift. And not surprisingly, Leahy isn’t amused–or satisfied.
As for the big mystery–the substance of that 2004 showdown at then-Attorney General Ashcroft’s hospital bedside, which had the upper echelon of the Justice Department ready to offer a mass resignation–Gonzales offers this by way of illumination:
Other aspects of the NSA activities referenced in the DNI’s letter did precipitate very serious disagreement. The nature of these disagreements has been the subject of oversight by the Intelligence Committees, including a closed hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at which I recently testified.