Dem calls for Special Prosecutor to investigate Gonzales' lies to Congress
A Democratic Congressman called for Alberto Gonzalez's resignation and said he wants an independent prosecutor to investigate reports that the attorney general misled Congress in denying knowledge of civil rights abuses by the FBI.
"Attorney General Gonzales has shown an apparent reckless disregard for the rule of law and a fundamental lack of respect for the oversight responsibilities of Congress," said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. "The man entrusted with enforcing our nation's laws must also abide by them - and Mr. Gonzales has apparently failed in that duty."
Tuesday's Washington Post reports that Gonzales was given at least a half-dozen reports detailing FBI abuses of power in the three months before testifying to Congress where he sought to renew the Patriot Act. In front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on April 27, 2005, he claimed he knew of no wrongdoing or abuse of power, and that the Patriot Act was free of problems, despite the reports of numerous violations of the law and FBI protocol.
The report detailed acts of unauthorized surveillance, improper searches, and other procedural and legal breaches of civil rights and privacy laws. Gonzales was also briefed on the abuse of an anti-terror tool known as the national security letter as early as 2005, well before the Justice Department's inspector general made these violations public.
Gonzales also was apparently dishonest when answering questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year about the national security letters, that panel's chairman said Tuesday. In written responses to questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Gonzales said he did not know of the FBI's misuse of the letters until he saw a draft copy of the inspector general's report, which was released publicly in March of this year.
“Unfortunately, this Administration’s penchant for secrecy makes it difficult to work in a cooperative way. ... This inconsistency is a disturbing addition to a growing list of misleading answers by the Attorney General to questions from the Judiciary Committee, and it is unacceptable." Leahy said in a prepared statement.
When the stinging IG report was issued, Gonzales reacted with surprise, saying, "I was upset when I learned this, as was Director Mueller. To say that I am concerned about what has been revealed in this report would be an enormous understatement."
Justice Department officials were quick to say Gonzales' comments were 'in the context' of the IG report: "The statements from the attorney general are consistent with statements from other officials at the FBI and the department," spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. He added that many of the violations the FBI disclosed were not legal violations and instead involved procedural safeguards or even typographical errors.
The Post writes that, "Each of the violations cited in the reports copied to Gonzales was serious enough to require notification of the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, which helps police the government's surveillance activities. The format of each memo was similar, and none minced words.
'This enclosure sets forth details of investigative activity which the FBI has determined was conducted contrary to the attorney general's guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection and/or laws, executive orders and presidential directives,' said the April 21, 2005, letter to the Intelligence Oversight Board."
The Post also reports, "Some of the reports describe rules violations that the FBI decided not to report to the intelligence board. In February 2006, for example, FBI officials wrote that agents sent a person's phone records, which they had obtained from a provider under a national security letter, to an outside party. The mistake was blamed on 'an error in the mail handling.' When the third party sent the material back, the bureau decided not to report the mistake as a violation."
"The Attorney General's resignation is the only step that can help restore our confidence in the Department of Justice," Nadler added. "Our democracy is harmed when the Executive so blatantly violates our fundamental freedoms. However, if the Attorney General resigns, the Bush Administration is not absolved of its sins. ... It's clear now that this Justice Department is unable to even abide by the wide latitudes of the Patriot Act and serious change - both in the law and the leadership - is needed."