The House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on Thursday to examine the administration’s specious arguments about the legal authority it has asserted to conduct warrantless wiretapping of Americans.
Steven Bradbury, the principal deputy assistant attorney general and the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, testified before the committee. Under questioning from Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), Bradbury claimed that former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s reservations about signing onto the White House’s domestic spying efforts in 2004 were actually in reference to a different spying program than the one President Bush has revealed:
REP. WATT: Mr. Bradbury, did former Attorney General Ashcroft express reservations, legal reservation about some aspect — whatever they were; I’m not even going to get into that — of the surveillance program?
MR. BRADBURY: Congressman, the attorney general has indicated that, as you might expect with complicated national security matters, disagreements arose about aspects of intelligence activities, the details of operations and intelligence activities that are not public, that remain highly classified –
REP. WATT: I’m not asking you to make anything public. I’m asking you, does that mean that the former attorney general had some reservations about — legal reservations about some aspects of the program, Mr. Bradbury?
MR. BRADBURY: Well, all I’ll say is what the attorney general has said, which is that disagreements arose, disagreements were addressed and resolved; however, those disagreements did not — were not about the particular activities that the president has publicly described, that we have termed the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
Bradbury’s testimony contradicts what Alberto Gonzales said just last week. Gonzales claimed that former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s testimony about Ashcroft’s reservations related to the “program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago.”
So, if Gonzales is telling the truth, Bradbury misled Congress under oath. If Bradbury is telling the truth, it means that Gonzales has again lied about the controversy surrounding the administration’s spying efforts. Moreover, if Bradbury is correct that Ashcroft’s disagreements were not about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, that must mean other spying programs exist.
UPDATE: In July 2006, Bradbury testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and claimed “the president is always right.” Watch it: