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The testimony before Congress, or the lack thereof, by various Bush administration officials is beginning to seem a mockery of the concept of “congressional oversight.” Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee issued contempt citations for Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten. Alberto Gonzales, meanwhile, actually appeared before the Senate Judiciary, but it’s unclear if his testimony was more meaningful than any testimony at all. Perhaps Gonzales should have just taken Miers’s and Bolten’s lead and stayed home.
Media outlets have caught on to a serious discrepancy between Gonzales’ testimony and information provided by documents from the National Intelligence Director’s office. The major issue discussed at the hearing yesterday concerned a visit Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card made in 2004 to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as he rested at George Washington University Hospital in downtown Washington, D.C., recovering from gallbladder surgery. Earlier in the night, Gonzales and Card had met with congressional leaders about an unspecified program and claimed to have gotten a consensus for renewing it. But when they spoke with Ashcroft, he deferred to Jim Comey, the Deputy Attorney General to whom Ashcroft had handed power while he recovered. Comey, who later testified that he thought Gonzales and Card had tried to take advantage of a sick Ashcroft, was opposed to the program.
The question, however, concerns which program was discussed that night in 2004. Gonzales claimed that it was an unnamed, highly classified intelligence program that was not the “Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP),” an initiative that allowed the government to eavesdrop on suspects in the US without oversight. But documents unearthed by the AP directly contradict Gonzales’ testimony:
A four-page memo from the national intelligence director’s office says the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.
The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details “the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte . . .
The documents underscore questions about Gonzales’ credibility as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.
Either the NID documents are in error, or Gonzales has been caught in yet another perjury before the committee. All this is not to mention the fact that Gonzales sought out the ailing attorney general in his hospital room, a tactless move that does seem to match Comey’s description of the events as an attempt to take advantage of Ashcroft. But where does Gonzales’ credibility now stand?
Of all government officials, the Attorney General should know best the importance of oversight within the government, the seriousness of perjury, and the consequences of misleading Congress. As the chief legal officer of the United States, he is charged with maintaining law and order in the land. But Gonzales–”Fredo”–holds his loyalty to the Executive dearer than his fidelity to his duties as a lawyer and his responsibilities to the American people. When things are so topsy-turvy at the top, accountability is the way to right the system. If the charges against Gonzales are substantiated, more contempt citations should be on the way.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”