Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faces new legal problems after yesterday’s testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
In a 2006 hearing, when Sen. Chuck Schumer asked him about Comey’s objections to the NSA wiretapping program, Gonzales denied there was any “serious disagreement about the program”:
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 —
SCHUMER: But there was some — I am sorry to cut you off, but there was some dissent within the administration, and Jim Comey did express at some point — that is all I asked you — some reservations.
GONZALES: The point I want to make is that, to my knowledge, none of the reservations dealt with the program that we are talking about today.
Gonzales’ answer suggests two possibilities.
1) Comey’s objections apply to the NSA warrantless wiretapping program that Gonzales was discussing. If so, then Gonzales quite likely made serious mis-statements under oath. And Gonzales was deeply and personally involved in the meeting at Ashcroft’s hospital bed, so he won’t be able to claim “I forgot.”
2) Perhaps Comey’s objections applied to a different domestic spying program. That has a big advantage for Gonzales — he wasn’t lying under oath. But then we would have senior Justice officials confirming that other “programs” exist for domestic spying, something the Administration has never previously stated.
During an interview I gave to PBS’s Frontline for a new documentary entitled Spying On the Home Front, I said, “there could be lots of room after you read [Gonzales’] testimony for other programs to be doing really unprecedented things.” Watch it:
You can watch the entire Frontline documentary here.