In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine that the legal requirement for Bush’s domestic wiretapping program is no lower than the “probable cause” requirement of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
GONZALES: The standard is a probable cause standard. It is reasonable grounds to…
DEWINE: A probable cause standard. Is that different than probable cause as we would normally learn that in law school…
GONZALES: Not in my judgment.
DEWINE: OK. So that means…
GONZALES: I think it’s probable cause. But it’s not probable cause as to guilt.
DEWINE: I understand.
GONZALES: Or probable cause as to a crime being committed. It’s probable cause that a party to the communication is a member or agent of Al Qaida. The precise language that I’d like to refer to is, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that a party to communication is a member or agent or Al Qaida or of an affiliated terrorist organization.” It is a probable cause standard, in my judgment.
But the Justice Department told a different story to the FISA Court judges in order to get their approval of the program. According to the Washington Post, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former NSA Director Michael Hayden told the FISA Court that the “probable cause” legal burden was too difficult to meet:
They made clear that, in such a broad hunt for suspicious patterns and activities, the government could never meet the FISA court’s probable-cause requirement, government officials said.
This wouldn’t be the first time Gonzales has misled the Judiciary Committee about the program. Perhaps Gonzales needs to return to the committee to clarify his answers – this time, under oath. More at Americablog.