The Washington Post has assembled a database of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales being notified – repeatedly – of FBI violations of the law governing the use of national security letters. But here’s what Gonzales told the Senate Intelligence committee on April 27, 2005: “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.”
According to the files obtained by the Post, Gonzales had in fact been notified at that point already six times in his short tenure as AG that the FBI had violated department guidelines to the degree that the FBI general counsel determined the violations needed to be reported to the Inspector General and the Intelligence Oversight Board. Here are a couple of examples of notifications Gonzales received (pdf and pdf).
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse parses the gap between the truth and what Gonzales testified to with what’s become a growing collection of unfathomable statements. ( “…When Gonzales testified, he was speaking ‘in the context’ of reports by the department’s inspector general … that found no misconduct or specific civil liberties abuses related to the Patriot Act”).
It’s hard to imagine that the department Gonzales leads is comfortable with his record of misleading testimony to Congress and statements to the American public. Almost anticipating today’s Post‘s revelations, Justice Department attorney John Koppel outlined his frustration in a cry of outrage that ran in the Denver Post over the weekend:
… The administration has attempted to minimize the significance of its malfeasance and misfeasance, reciting its now-customary “mistakes were made” mantra, accepting purely abstract responsibility without consequences for its actions, and making hollow vows to do better. However, the DOJ Inspector General’s Patriot Act report (which would not even have existed if the administration had not been forced to grudgingly accept a very modest legislative reporting requirement, instead of being allowed to operate in its preferred secrecy), the White House-DOJ e-mails, and now the Libby commutation merely highlight yet again the lawlessness, incompetence and dishonesty of the present executive branch leadership.
They also underscore Congress’ lack of wisdom in blindly trusting the administration, largely rubber-stamping its legislative proposals, and essentially abandoning the congressional oversight function for most of the last six years. These are, after all, the same leaders who brought us the WMD fiasco, the unnecessary and disastrous Iraq war, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, warrantless domestic NSA surveillance, the Valerie Wilson leak, the arrest of Brandon Mayfield, and the Katrina response failure. The last thing they deserve is trust.
The sweeping, judicially unchecked powers granted under the Patriot Act should neither have been created in the first place nor permanently renewed thereafter, and the Act – which also contributed to the ongoing contretemps regarding the replacement of U.S. attorneys, by changing the appointment process to invite political abuse – should be substantially modified, if not scrapped outright. And real, rather than symbolic, responsibility should be assigned for the manifold abuses.
Koppel demonstrates that there’s at least one person from the Justice Department willing to tell the truth — publicly, and on the record.