Attorney General Alberto Gonzales directly contradicted his 2006 sworn testimony about the NSA domestic surveillance program during a press conference today.
Recall, last month, Deputy Attorney General James Comey revealed in sworn testimony that there had been significant dissent within the Justice Department surrounding the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spying program. Comey revealed that the deep doubts about the program’s “legality and oversight” almost led to the resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and others.
Comey’s disturbing account contradicted Alberto Gonzales’ sworn testimony before Congress in 2006. He said at the time:
GONZALES: Senator, here is a response that I feel that I can give with respect to recent speculation or stories about disagreements. There has not been any serious disagreement, including — and I think this is accurate — there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations, which I cannot get into. I will also say —
Last month, Gonzales refused to retract his original testimony, raising “fresh questions about the nature of the classified dispute” to which Comey referred. Center for American Progress senior fellow Peter Swire noted that Gonzales’ refusal to revise his testimony either confirmed that Gonzales had “made serious misstatements under oath” or that senior Justice Department officials were, in effect, “confirming that other ‘programs’ exist for domestic spying.”
Today, Gonzales appeared to resolve the question. He confirmed that both he and Comey were referring to the same domestic spying program:
QUESTION: Mr. Attorney General, last month, Jim Comey testified about a visit you and Andy Card made to John Ashcroft’s hospital bed. Can you tell us your side of the story? Why were you there? And did Mr. Comey testify truthfully about it? Did he remember it correctly?
GONZALES: Mr. Comey’s testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago. And, because it’s a highly classified program, I’m not going to comment on his testimony.
Gonzales’ confirmation that he and Comey were in fact referring to the same NSA warrantless wiretapping program raises fresh questions about his credibility. Assuming Gonzales is now telling the truth, his original claim that there was no “serious disagreement” about the program should be viewed as a brazen effort to mislead Congress about the depth and seriousness of the legal controversy surrounding the spying program.