Senate Judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy has posted his response to the revelations in the Washington Post today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales misled Congress in stating that “there was not one verified case of civil liberties abuse.”
Leahy writes that the Senate Intelligence committee was not the only one Gonzales deceived:
In addition to the comments the Attorney General’s provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2005, detailed in The Washington Post story today, the Attorney General also failed to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with the accurate information regarding the timing of his knowledge of abuses of National Security Letters (NSLs). In answers to questions posed by Chairman Leahy to the Attorney General following the Committee’s April 2007 oversight hearing, the Attorney General indicated that he first learned of the NSL abuses through drafts of the Office of Inspector General’s report on NSL abuses, just prior to the public release of that report in March 2007. The Judiciary Committee received the Attorney General’s answers last week.
Leahy had asked Gonzales: “Please state when you first became aware of the widespread abuses of NSLs at the FBI.”
And Gonzales answered: “Prior to the public release of the Inspector General’s report on March 9,2007, the Office of the Inspector General provided drafts of the report for classification and factual review. Upon learning of the findings contained in the draft report, the Attorney General was concerned, promptly ordered a detailed review of report’s findings and recommendations, and directed senior Department officials, including officials at the FBI, to address the shortcomings identified by the Inspector General’s report.”
So a jury of his peers might interpret Gonzales to be saying that when he saw the drafts of the 2007 IG report on NSL abuses, he learned for the first time of these abuses, and grew concerned, and demanded actions to correct them.
So what’s the problem?
The Post piece and database makes plain that Gonzales was directly informed of NSL abuses ten times before the March 2007 IG report on NSL abuses. He was informed of the first one as early as February 10, 2005 — two years before the IG report. His answer to the committee could not be more misleading.
Leahy responds in his posted comment, “Each day seems to bring with it another example of this Administration’s troubling pattern of misleading or stonewalling Congress and the public. The reports today that the Attorney General misled Congress regarding violations of Americans’ privacy and civil liberties by his department are deeply disturbing and warrant further inquiry.”