Friday, July 27, 2007

Will Gonzales Blame Bush ?

Below I make totally twitty comments on this important post by Spencer Ackerman and Paul Kiel.

Much of it reviews the TPM and TPMuckraker interest in Gonzales's insistence phrasing all of his denials concerning the NSA warrantless wiretapping program as referring to "what the president has confirmed." This leads the TPMavins to conclude that a broader denial would be demonstrably false. In particular, on the topic of recent possible perjury

Most significantly, when Gonzales first testified to the Senate on February 6, 2006, about the NSA's domestic surveillance, he at first used the term "terrorist surveillance program" -- the new choice for describing what Bush disclosed. But when Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) asked Gonzales about press accounts reporting that Comey and Goldsmith objected to the "terrorist surveillance program," Gonzales abandoned the construction. He said he was "only testifying about what the president has confirmed." And when it came to that, he said, "I do not believe that these DOJ officials that you're identifying had concerns about this program." The disagreement, Gonzales said, was about “other matters regarding operations.”

That is, he said way back then, that there was something going on other than what the president confirmed. As it became clear how much Comey and Goldsmith objected, many have asked what else.

Until today, I saw 3 possibilities.
1. Gonzales simply lied hoping that Comey and Goldsmith wouldn't squeal. Now he is nailed.
2. There is a completely different (and much worse) program we know nothing about.
3. In his own mind, Gonzales distinguished NSA warrantless wiretapping I and NSA warrantless wiretapping II. The transition would be the changes as a result of Comey et al.'s objections. Thus he would be prepared to parse his apparent perjury explaining that, without mentioning any such distinction to the senators, he wasn't talking about what they were trying to ask him about. This is the theory presented by Ackerman and Kiel, and it sure makes sense.

Now I just thought of a 4th possibility.

Bush's confirmation was definitely dishonest. He claimed "I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations." This is clearly false. The word "known" is very strong, much stronger than inference based on evidence sufficient for a warrant. Casual use of the word "known" for "suspected" or "possible" or "true with probability 1%" is a very typical form of Bush administration dishonesty and/or sincere irrationality, so I barely noticed the blatant dishonesty. However, it might be key to a possible Gonzales defense strategy.

Let me present the following defense of Gonzales

AG "Bush lied to the American people. He admitted that there was a program, but he only admitted a tiny fraction of the warrantless interceptions. Thus when I talked about "the program the President confirmed" I referred only to the interception of conversations of people known to be linked to al Qaeda, that is Mr X and Mr Y who are currently on trial. The thousands of other people whose communications were intercepted based on data mining and other crap, are not part of the program the president confirmed. Since the president chose to make up a new sub program to confirm, which has nothing to do with an nonexistent operational distinction between known al Qaeda operatives and people who just use pre-paid cell phones to call Pakistan, I chose to dodge questions by rephrasing them as questions about this program invented by the president on December 19, 2005. No one has objected to tapping the phones of Mr X and Mr Y, so I'm totally innocent.

That is, the distinction between the NSA program and the program described by the president could exist only because the president lied and convessed only a tiny part of the NSA program thereby creating a new sub program. If the presidents confirmation clearly does not correspond to the NSA spying program, Gonzales is in the clear. He never claimed that "the program the President confirmed" existed before January 19 2005.

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