Mueller’s Chronology

id you ever notice that if you take a log recording the events regarding an illegal surveillance program, and redact the heck out of it, it looks like a chronology that a dirty fucking hippy blogger might write? Below you can read what’s left of Mueller’s log, with my notes. The big takeaways are:

  • Mueller refers to a “program,” singular. Which backs up what everyone has been saying: Gonzales is a lying sack. There was one program that was the subject of a DOJ revolt, not the parsing tidbits of programs Gonzales would like to pretend there were.
  • All Cheney, no Bush. With the exception of the famous meeting where Mueller met Bush directly, Bush was uninvolved, at least from Mueller’s perspective. Cheney, on the other hand, attended all the group meetings (though Card was in charge of twisting Mueller’s and Comey’s arms). And the final meeting Mueller felt the need to record was one with Cheney. Is there any doubt, then, when Gonzales say “at the behest of the President,” he really means, “Dick”?
  • Mueller almost seemed to be a go-between between those in DOJ preparing to resign and the White House, with Gonzales as the point of contact.

Monday 3/1/04, 1700: Meeting with Comey in his office.

This was actually before the meeting at which Comey and Ashcroft decided not to reauthorize the program, which he said occurred on March 4, the same day Ashcroft was hospitalized. That means two things–Comey was not acting AG when the meeting occurred, and that it happened before the final decision was made. Note that Mueller draws a line after this entry, suggesting some kind of separation between this meeting and subsequent meetings.

Tuesday 3/9/04, 1000: Meeting with Fedarcyk, Pistole, Caproni (and perhaps Wainstein and Gebhardt).

These were then all top FBI people, most with a focus on counter-terrorism–Wainstein is now the AAG in charge of Counter-Terrorism. Fedarcyk, who has since retired, was quoted after Mueller’s testimony as suggesting Mueller was “throwing Gonzales under a bus.”

Mike Fedarcyk, a retired senior FBI official called Mueller’s shot at Gonzales a “jawdropper inside the bureau.”

Mueller, who was not in the hospital room, spoke to Ashcroft right after Gonzales left and testified he took notes about the incident. Fedarcyk said that appeared to be insurance against a White House counterattack.

“Usually you take notes to protect yourself. He used them to throw Gonzales under the bus. That’s huge,” Fedarcyk said.

“This is not partisan politics. It’s a bold, strategic, calculated move.”

Presumably, this meeting served to finalize the FBI position on what they needed from the program, just before Mueller went and represented the FBI’s position at a White House meeting on this.

Tuesday 3/9/04, 1200: Meeting at Card’s office, VP, [CIA Deputy Director] McLaughlin, [NSA Director] Hayden, Gonzales and others present.

Note that it appears Meuller was there, but Comey was not, which suggest they thought of Mueller, but not Comey, as a key member of National Security policing.

Tuesday 3/9/04, 1600: Meeting at Card’s office with Comey, attorneys from OLC, VP, Card, Gonzales, Hayden and others.

I wonder how long the earlier meeting was, since it includes most of the same people as the last meeting, plus the people at OLC to explain to Cheney why they couldn’t
reauthorize the program. Interestingly, Jack Goldsmith was not mentioned by name.

Wednesday 3/10/04, 1920: Called by DAG while at restaurant with wife and daughter. He is at AG’s hospital with Goldsmith and Philbin. Tells me Card and J. Gonzales are on the way to hospital to see the AG but that AG is in no condition to see them, much less make decision to authorize continuation of the program. Asks me to come to AG’s hospital to witness condition of AG.

This is one of just two unredacted passages in this log–but it reveals certain things. First, there is one program, not a set of several programs, some legal, some not, as Alberto Gonzales has claimed before Congress. But also, note that Mueller is very clear that he is to “witness condition of AG.” You only get a witness for something if you know it’ll be needed for testimony later. Comey knew they’d try to lie their way around this.

Mueller appears to have been uninvolved in the events that happened between late afternoon on the 9th and evening on the 10th, most notably, when Comey told Cheney no. And also, when the Gang of Eight were briefed on the program’s problems.

Wednesday 3/10/04, 1940: At hospital. [click through for the description]

It took Mueller twenty minutes to get to the hospital, and Card and Gonzales had come and gone by the time he got there–suggesting they were in the hospital for just minutes. Also note–this is when Comey had Mueller order Ashcroft’s detail to keep visitors out, which seems to contradict Comey’s testimony slightly.

Wednesday 3/10/04, 2010: Saw AG. Janet Ashcroft in the room. AG in chair, is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.

The timing on this suggests that Comey and Mueller had a half hour to speak before Mueller went into see Ashcroft. That may not all have been a discussion of the program and Card and Gonzales, but it’s curious that this time period is longer than Card and Gonzales were at the hospital. Also note Mueller’s description of Ashcroft: clearly stressed. Suggesting he was pissed about more than just being interrupted in the ICU.

Wednesday 3/10/04, 2020: Departed the hospital.

Mueller didn’t stay long with Ashcroft.

Thursday 3/11/04, 1200: Meeting at Card’s office with him at his request. [6 paragraphs are redacted]

Note the timing of this meeting–1200. In the interim period, Card had demanded that Comey come to his office–he and Olson had gone at “about 11 at night” after the hospital meeting. It appears that Mueller was alone with Card, and that whatever transpired, Mueller had a lot to say about it. The meeting lasted 40 minutes.

Thursday 3/11/04, 1240: Stopped by J. Gonzales’ office after meeting with Card.

Clearly, this wasn’t a substantive discussion–just one sentence description. Which suggests Card was the one really taking the lead on the 11th.

Thursday 3/11/04, 1315: Meeting with Comey, et al., at his office.

No mention of who is included in “et al,” which is particularly interesting since everyone at DOJ was considering resigning en masse. And this meeting would have occurred immediately after Mueller returned to DOJ from the White House–was everyone together all day, or did they pull the meeting together after Mueller returned? Also remember–sometime in this time period, Tom DeLay was briefed on the program.

Thursday 3/11/04, 1450: Telephone call from J. Gonzales.

Friday 3/12/04, 0945: The President called me into the side office off the Oval Office after we had concluded our morning briefing of him. [7 paragraphs redacted]

Curiously, Mueller doesn’t mention (at least in the unredacted section) that Comey met with Bush first. Nor does he suggest the meeting happened at Comey’s insistence, as Comey claims.

Friday 3/12/04, 1045: Met with Comey and others at DOJ.

Comey provides this description of what happened after the meeting with Bush:

After those two sessions, we at his direction to do the right thing, to do what we believed DOJ was necessary to certify as to its legality, we set out to do that.

So this meeting (which may have directly followed the meeting with Bush, given the timing) must have been DOJ’s first stab at “doing the right thing.”

[Update] Friday 3/12/04, 1606: Mueller first saves this file. Hat tip to Austin Cooper on this thread.

“H:\RSM_Docs\Miscellaneous\Program.wpd March 12, 2004 (4:06PM)”

Mueller did not record these thoughts until after the conversation with Bush. Did something about that conversation make Mueller think he had to start CYA-ing?

Friday 3/12/04, 1650: Called Judge Gonzales.

Friday 3/12/04, 1700: Met with Comey and others.

Friday 3/12/04, 1845: Called Judge Gonzales.

Saturday 3/13/04, 0955: Called General Hayden.

Sunday 3/14/04, 1500: Meeting at DOJ with Comey, et al.

Sunday 3/14/04, 1820: Called Comey.

Sunday 3/14/04, 1845: Called Gonzales.

Monday 3/15/04, 0850: Discussed issues with Tenet after morning briefing in Sit Room.

Monday 3/15/04, 0930: Called Comey.

Tuesday 3/16/04, 1345: Call from Judge Gonzales.

Tuesday 3/16/04, 1840: Call from Comey.

Tuesday 3/16/04, 2000: Call at home from Judge Gonzales.

Tuesday 3/16/04, 2030: Comey called.

Wednesday 3/17/04, 1105: Comey called.

All these contacts appear to be the negotiation between (primarily) DOJ and WH on how to “do the right thing.” Hayden and Tenet were contacted just once each, at least by Mueller. Several times, Mueller refers to “Comey et al,” suggesting Mueller has an idea of the key people working with Comey on this–presumably Philbin and Goldsmith. And note that Mueller makes a point of noting the Gonzales call at home. This appears to have taken place just as things got settled–then why the call at home? Why the Comey follow-up?

Altogether it appears that this negotiation period went on for about 5 days. Was the program inactive during that period?

Tuesday 3/23/04, 1200: Meeting with Vice President at his request in his Office.

I love the “at his request” here and in the reference to the Card meeting. That’s probably code for Dick called me into his office to chew me out.

Which is likely what happened, and why this meeting, a week after the program appeared to get settled and two weeks after the hospital confrontation, got recorded as the last entry in Mueller’s log.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. albert fall says:

    The DeLay briefing catches my attention. That smacks of being a political briefing, not program related, to see whether Tom thought Congress would hold in the face of an en masse resignation of the nation’s law enforcement leadership.

    Evidence that DeLay was not completely nuts….

  2. endofworld says:

    Under:
    â€Wednesday 3/17/04, 1105: Comey called.â€
    you wrote:
    â€Several times, Mueller refers to â€Comey et al,†suggesting Mueller has an idea of the key people working with â€Mueller†on this–presumably Philbin and Goldsmith.â€
    Instead of Mueller,it should read Comey.

  3. Anonymous says:

    albert 20:35 — I’m far more suspicious and cynical; I wouldn’t be surprised if the so-called briefing was not only to check Congress’ temp on this, but to let DeLay know he couldn’t count on political dirt because the program was in jeopardy.

    Remember they — meaning DeLay and Frist — were also doing daytrading at their desks…were they getting inside info on bills before they were even submitted?

  4. Anonymous says:

    thanks, EW — i did not see that
    one of yours, before i wrote mine,
    here, or on mine — and your earlier
    ones (excellent sleuthing, btw, by
    you, on that!), i missed while on a
    road-trip vacate with the fam, after
    yearlyKOS. . . so thanks. and very
    good work.

    i still took it that mueller’s note
    about 3/10/04 @ 19:40 meant that the
    ACTING AG, or comey, couldn’t get
    the information — i did not realize
    that even ashcroft was making the same
    complaint. what is large about THAT
    is that cheney was then ORDERING a
    violation of the procedures (patriot
    act reauthorization procedures), by
    keeping the information â€compart-
    mentalized†away from either ashcroft
    or acting AG comey.

    wow — just wow.

    [thanks for keeping canning alive.

    we are collecting our peaches on
    saturday. . . from our favorite
    farm in michigan, to do the same.]

    p e a c e

  5. Anonymous says:

    nolo

    Read the earlier post. Gonzales said very clearly it was Ashcroft, not Comey:

    I also recall that, prior to the time I departed, General Ashcroft briefly mentioned a concern about security clearances for members of his staff regarding the NSA activities that were the subject of the presidential order.

  6. nolo says:

    cool, EW — [i’m tempted to
    insert a silly snark-line
    about why we’d believe any-
    thing ’berto says, but i won’t,
    because this is an admission
    against interest, by ’berto, so
    it is particularly trustworthy.]

    thanks. i’ll go revise mine.

    again — this does just make it worse.

    the vice president ordered that
    the information be kept from
    ashcroft — in direct violation
    of the patriot act (forget for a
    moment that this pre-2005 incar-
    nation of the patriot act was,
    almost certainly unconstitutional,
    in that it too-easily allowed spying
    without even articuable suspicion,
    or court review, of ordinary innocent
    u.s. citizens — dick cheney wasn’t
    even allowing his people to comply
    with these far-too-low hurdles
    !). . .

    again, wow.

    changes to mine — crediting you,
    in mere moments, here.

    p e a c e

    [o/t — it seems at least two more
    have been injured in crandall canyon
    mine — probably rescue workers, in
    a new collapse at almost 1200 feet.

    still — keep a good thought.]

  7. John Lopresti says:

    It is interesting that the early March 2004 timeframe was still one of active worry by patients in NY whose medical records Ashcroft had failed to succeed in subpoenaing. I have yet to study Mueller’s heavily redacted notes beyond a few cursory readings, but it looks like what should have been a routine operation upon Ashcroft resulted in more ICU time than would be customary for a ranking official in government. It seems he made some changes in career plans during that time, perhaps given the span of a few days for reflection, and wanting to enjoy a meaningful life of his own. I understand the Scotus voted for much of Ashcroft’s plan in 2006, but not the business about exposing all first trimester health records to the US Attorney General.

  8. Jay says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for paying attention to this.

    I too agree that the â€strict compartmentalization rules†aspect is the most important part of the redacted note. What does this mean and/or imply? Here’s a stab at it.

    The program is divided into several components. The people administering those components are not aware of the other components; the intelligence they generate only moves up the chain of command.

    The program’s components are technologically and legally complex (cf Rockefeller’s and Ashcroft’s inability to comprehend the Program).

    The administration has been playing games with people who are in a position to stop the Program. The executive order authorizing the program is written in such a fashion as to seem benign but upon further reflection could be interpreted in a scary, overbroad, Cheney-esque, plenary, unitary-executive sort of way. That’s why it was reauthorized so many times before Comey had some occasion to re-read it and say, Holy Sh*t. When Comey and Cheney undertook to understand the Program and get assurances about certain features precluding its legality, Comey and/or Ashcroft got the runaround, so they signalled that they could not recertify the Program without verification.

    The WH overreacted, confirming their worst suspicions.

    So either Cheney and/or Comey and/or some faction of the DOJ, let’s say, â€et al†has off-the-record, no-notes-taken briefings about the Program, or the components of the program. However, comprehension of the Program or its components is impossible because 1. the auspices under which the briefings take place and 2. the secrecy rules governing them and 3. their complex technical/legal characteristics.

    But maybe someone at DOJ breaks the rules and calls a fiber optics technician. Or perhaps a technical communications system analyst. Maybe individuals briefed on different components break the rules by comparing notes with people briefed on other components. Maybe Comey secretly coordinates them to find out what they’re up to, and when they put the big picture together it adds up to something pretty unseemly.

    My guess would be a phone and email interception system for the DC area, that would just happen to include the DNC and congressional offices. Don’t think they’d do that? They already had, and got caught in January of that year, per Boston Post:

    http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bi…..cgi/4/3345

  9. rincewind says:

    I didn’t realize until tonight (watching the 9th Circuit hearings on c-span2) that the Al-Haramain surveillance is ’alleged’ to have occurred in March and April of 2004. Both Bondy and Eisenburg mentioned it.

    The lawyers accidentally got â€The Document†later in the fall of ’04, but I don’t recall ever before hearing when the surveillance actually took place.

    March 2004 sure was a busy month…..

  10. qwerty says:

    EW…re: Ash mentioned concern abt sec clearances for members of his staff…
    This seems deliberate evasion to testify that Ash, himself, did not have sec clearances.

    Also tht Comey en route to hosp called Mueller to have Mue call and order his agents not to permit anyone to remove Comey from room. All this before Card/Gonz arrival, and before Mue arrived.

    Also, WHO called hosp switchboard and got put thru to ICU/Mrs.Ash over orders that no tele calls be allowed to ICU? WHO had sufficient altitude to pull that off? Doubt Card or Gonzalez. But P or VP could pull rank, for sure. For sure Mrs. Ash knows WHO made that call to blow open way for Card/Gonz to enter ICU.

    EW, thanks your v able and effective work.

    Also

  11. rhfactor says:

    hey, watch your language young lady. I would peg you as being a lapsed catholic. nevertheless…

    and I have proof it was all part of THE program: I saw The Bourne Ultimatum tonight — and they dramatize broad-reaching â€program†under one code-name.

    Ergo, I rest my case. CONCLUSIVE!

    Besides, the phenomenal score by John Powell is back in top form. If we were to apply that soundtrack to the entire Bush Administration, it would make their lawlessness + incompetence exciting vs disgusting.

  12. casual observer says:

    DeLay also caught my eye. About a year before this, he had used various assets in Homeland Security to track down a hefty chunk of the texas democratic caucus hiding out in Ardmore OK.–back when he was redistricting Texas in order to squeeze 4 or 5 new republican seats from the state.

    Arguably a Hatch Act Violation, or a Violation of some damn thing besides anyone’s sense of decency.

    Reading a snake like DeLay into ’the program’ was a very, very, dangerous thing to do.

  13. semiot says:

    Excellent recommed diary over at the Big Orange right now. Drational is doing some superb sleuthing. He notes that Mueller is giving a lot more information up in response to the Congression request that was called for. All the items mentioning meetings with Cheney on the surveillance issue in March 2004 are gifts to the republic from our current FBI director.