In his testimony yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that when James Comey raised objections to the administration’s spying program, he was referring to “other intelligence activities,” not the warrantless wiretapping program that Bush has confirmed.
Yesterday, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), who was ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, said he was never told of “other intelligence activities.” “As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one” intelligence program, Rockefeller said.
Today, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), a former member of the so-called “Gang of Eight” who was briefed by the White House on the program, announced she too was unaware of other intelligence activities:
Two Members of Congress who were part of the Gang of Eight said if Gonzales approached Ashcroft about something that had been part of their discussions, it could only have been the terrorist surveillance program, whose existence the president confirmed in December.
“That doesn’t make any sense to me,” Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said of Gonzales’ testimony. She said the TSP was “the only program we were ever briefed about.”
Harman was ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, and confirmed that she attended the March 10 meeting referenced by Gonzales.
Similarly, Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said there was only one program that the Gang of Eight was briefed on, and it was the program the president already has confirmed. Plus, both Harman and Rockefeller said the Congressional briefings were limited in scope.
“We were briefed on the operational details — period — not the legal underpinnings,” Harman said.
Harman and Rockefeller claim that the only program they were told about was the NSA domestic surveillance program. But yet, in his testimony before Congress yesterday, Gonzales claimed that when he rushed to John Ashcroft’s bedside in 2004, he was seeking authorization for a separate intelligence activity — a program for which Gonzales claims he received “consensus” approval from the bi-partisan “Gang of Eight” on the same day he visited Ashcroft.
Harman and Rockefeller are reporting that they never consented to “other intelligence activities.” Responding to a question about whether he believed Gonzales perjured himself Tuesday, Rockefeller responded, “Based upon what I know about it, I’d have to say yes.”
UPDATE: Harman also spoke to the New York Times about the meeting:
“The program had different parts, but there was only one program,” Ms. Harman said, adding that Mr. Gonzales was “selectively declassifying information to defend his own conduct,” which she called improper.