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AGAG Doesn’t Recall What He Said Monday

Well, that’s not entirely correct. Rather, Alberto Gonzales is backing off what he said Monday, when he supported a torture investigation.

"Contrary to press reporting and based on the information that’s available to me," Mr. Gonzales said during an interview Thursday with The Washington Times, "I don’t support the investigation by the department because this is a matter that has already been reviewed thoroughly and because I believe that another investigation is going to harm our intelligence gathering capabilities and that’s a concern that’s shared by career intelligence officials and so for those reasons I respectfully disagree with the decision."

[snip]

"It’s an endorsement of his right to exercise his discretion," he said. "I’m just saying I would have exercised my discretion in a different manner, given the information I have."

So maybe the best explanation is that on Tuesday, Gonzales didn’t recall the investigation he purportedly did when he was still Attorney General.

Or maybe the better explanation is that someone finally gave him the sinecure he was looking for.

Update: My previous link went dead, so I replaced the content with the original Washington Times piece and fixed the timing.

More on CIA’s Fictions about Executive Branch and Congressional Briefings

I’ve been promising to return to the way that the CIA IG Report discusses the Congressional and Executive Branch approvals for the torture program. Particularly given John McCain’s complaint that CIA misrepresented what he said in a torture briefing, I thought it time to do so.

A close look at the claims the IG Report made about approvals shows it:

  • Repeats earlier CIA vagueness and outright lies about Congressional briefings and individual Members’ responses to those briefings
  • Emphasizes the centrality of DOJ to approvals, at times misleadingly 
  • May obscure the timing of and the participants in White House approval of the program

Now, remember, it’s not clear whether these fictions are the IG’s fiction, or whether John Helgerson’s team was given crappy information. One other thing to keep in mind, though, is that the IG Report appears to have been drafted as early as February 24, 2004–over two months before it was ultimately released. While Cheney had a chance to review the document, DOJ did not. And Congress was only given the document the week of June 18, 2004, when Ashcroft started balking at its content.


What follows is a paragraph by paragraph assessment of the CIA IG’s claims about Congressional and Executive Branch approvals for torture. 

45. At the same time that OLC was reviewing the legality of EITs in the summer of 2002, the Agency was consulting with NSC policy staff and senior Administration officials. The DCI briefed appropriate senior national security and legal officials on the proposed EITs. In the fall of 2002, the Agency briefed the leadership of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of both standard techniques and EITs.

To some degree the first sentence of the paragraph matches what appears in the SSCI Narrative, which shows the following "consultations:"

April 2002: OGC "began discussions with [Bellinger] and OLC concerning the CIA’s proposed interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah and legal restrictions on that interrogation. Bellinger briefed Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff

Mid-May 2002: OGC meets with Ashcroft, Condi, Hadley, Bellinger, and Gonzales

July 13, 2002: OGC met with Bellinger, Yoo, Chertoff, Daniel Levin, Gonzales

July 17, 2002: George Tenet met with Condi, who okays torture program

Though of course, it uses a rather broad definition of "summer." I’m also curious about the "at the same time" description. The SSCI narrative notes that OGC didn’t talk to OLC until after the first consultations. And neither of these account for the alleged earlier approvals going back to at least May. Neither of these account for the meetings between the War Council (Addington, Yoo, Haynes, Rizzo, and Gonzales) going back much further. Furthermore, neither lists the July 13, 2002 letter from Yoo to Rizzo basically instructing him how to game the law. In other words, I wonder (as I have since the SSCI Narrative came out) whether the NSC-CIA discussions are really a distraction from the much earlier approvals involving other lawyers like Addington and Haynes?

Now onto the sentence describing the Congressional briefing. Read more

Gonzales’ Choice

This is what happens when a corrupt Administration doesn’t distribute the sinecures to all. (h/t MadDog)

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Tuesday defended the decision of his current successor, Eric H. Holder Jr., to investigate alleged prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators over President Obama’s desire to look forward.

"As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House," said Mr. Gonzales, who was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush in 2005 and resigned in 2007.

(He goes on to say that if people exceeded guidelines, it is fair to punish them.)

And who can blame Fredo? Nora Dannehy is still investigating whether Alberto Gonzales politicized DOJ, picking and choosing cases and US Attorneys for political reasons. This offers an opportunity for him to defend the independence of the Attorney General, even if his statement contradicts all his actions in that position. It looks good, you know?

I’m particularly curious whether Gonzales’ statement is designed to forestall investigation in his role both in 2005 (when, the torture apologists claim, with only some accuracy, DOJ investigated but did not pursue these abuses) and/or his alleged role much earlier in the process, giving day to day approval for techniques used by the torturers?

I will say this though: welcome, AGAG! Let’s hear more from you on the importance of DOJ independence. Not because your words have any credibility. But because it suggests you might be willing to say more–much more–to defend yourself in the face of those who refused you a sinecure.

Gonzales and Bush Haven’t Spoken

It has been pretty apparent, given Alberto Gonzales’ utter failure to stumble on any wingnut welfare since resigning, that the Bush camp hasn’t been helping him out much.

But an interview in the NYT shows just how much relations between Gonzales and Bush have chilled.

Do you still talk to President Bush?
I have not spoken with the president since he left office.

Have you ever been tempted to pick up the phone and say hi to him?
I do, of course, think about our time together, and there are times when I think about doing that. But listen, I know that he has his life to live. I’ve got challenges and my life to live as well.

This of course means Gonzales has not been invited to Bush’s legacy planning meetings (not surprisingly). But it also means Gonzales hasn’t even bumped into Bush in over six months. That would be hard to do, if Gonzales were traveling normal Texas Republican circles.

I’m particularly interested in Gonzales’ representation of the timing of this: he says nothing about whether he spoke to Bush before he left office. I wonder whether something happened at the end to make Gonzales clam up? Did Gonzales, for example, ask for a little Bushie pre-emptive pardon, just like Cap Weinberger got?

Add in Gonzales’ whining about his legal bills–and the suggestion that Bush and Cheney have not been forthcoming to help with them–and it all seems to reinforce the notion that Bush has sacrificed Gonzales to legal problems he has at least partly because of larger Bush Administration actions.

Have you asked Bush or Cheney to help defray your legal bills?
I have not asked them personally.

I think you should ask them. They got you into this pickle. Shouldn’t they help get you out?
Listen, I have a group of supporters that are helping me fund-raise. They’re making decisions about how to do this successfully.

What are your legal bills like?
Substantial. I’ll say that obviously it’s been a burden. We did establish a legal-defense fund, and we have raised and are in the process of raising additional monies to pay for the lawyers.

But then, Gonzales has been whining about his bills for some time, to no avail. 

Read more

When and To What Degree Was John Ashcroft Read Into the Illegal Surveillance Program?

We have long known that John Ashcroft was not properly read into the illegal domestic surveillance program. Senator Whitehouse suggested as much when Attorney General Gonzales testified in July 2007. And both Gonzales and Robert Mueller revealed that John Ashcroft–from his ICU bed–complained that his advisors had not been able to get read into the program and as a result he was ill-informed about the program.

But here’s an interesting detail about the hospital visit:

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.

[snip]

Well, here’s the relevant detail from Mueller’s notes:

The AG also told [Card and Gonzales] that he was barred from obtaining the advice he needed on the program by the strict compartmentalization rules of the WH.

But the IG Report raises new and different questions about when–and to what degree–John Ashcroft was read into Cheney’s illegal domestic surveillance program. It includes the same details as Gonzales and Mueller have already revealed (though it looks like Gonzales was rather more cautious when speaking with the IG than before, and the IG appears not to have asked Mueller for his version of the story).

Former Attorney General Gonzales and former OLC Assistant Attorney General Bybee both told the DOJ OIG that they did not know how Yoo became responsible for analyzing the legality of the PSP.

[snip]

Gonzales told the DOJ OIG that the Yoo opinions represented the legal opinion of DOJ, and that it was Ashcroft’s decision as to how to satisfy his obligations as Attorney General. Gonzales told the DOJ OIG that Ashcroft complained to the White House that it was "inconvenient" not to have the Deputy Attorney General or Ashcroft’s Chief of Staff read into the PSP, but Gonzales also stated that he never got the sense from Ashcroft that this affected the quality of the legal advice about the program that DOJ provided to the White House. As noted, Ashcroft declined the DOJ OIG’s request for an interview. The DOJ OIG therefore was unable to determine from Ashcroft whether he sought additional DOJ read-ins to assist in the legal analysis of the program, how hard he may have pressed for these additional read-ins, or whether he believed he was receiving adequate legal advice about the program from Yoo alone during this early phase of the PSP.

But there’s one big–huge–tell about whether or not Ashcroft conducted sufficient analysis of this program to approve its legality: 

Attorney General John Ashcroft approved the first Presidential Authorization for the PSP as to "form and legality" on the same day he was read into the program.

Read more

George Bush PERSONALLY Sent Card and Gonzales to Thug Up Ashcroft

Bush Thug Life

by twolf1

Today’s IG Report on illegal wiretapping answers another previously unanswered question: who called Mrs. Ashcroft to tell her Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales were coming to the ICU ward to rough of John Ashcroft.

George Bush did so himself.

From the report:

According to notes from Ashcroft’s FBI security detail, at 6:20 PM that evening Card called the hospital and spoke with an agent in Ashcroft’s security detail, advising him that President Bush would be calling shortly to speak with Ashcroft. Ashcroft’s wife told the agent that Ashcroft would not accept the call. Ten minutes later, the agent called Ashcroft’s Chief of Staff David Ayres at DOJ to request that Ayres speak with Card about the President’s intention to call Ashcroft. The agent conveyed to Ayres Mrs. Ashcroft’s desire that no calls be made to Ashcroft for another day or two. However, at 6:5 PM, Card and the President called the hospital and, according to the agent’s notes, "insisted on speaking [with Attorney General Ashcroft]." According to the agent’s notes, Mrs. Ashcroft took the call from Card and the President and was informed that Gonzales and Card were coming to the hospital to see Ashcroft regarding a matter involving national security. (24) [my emphasis]

That use of the passive–almost the only incidence of its use in this report–is a nice touch. I guess five Inspectors General still don’t want to admit that the President of the United States personally led this kind of thuggery.

Gonzales KNEW Ashcroft Was Too Sick to Reauthorize the Program–But Asked Him To Anyway

Back when he was testifying before Congress, Alberto Gonzales played dumb about whether or not he knew John Ashcroft was too sick to sign the reauthorization for the warrantlesss wiretap program. But the IG Report makes it clear he was well aware Ashcroft couldn’t sign it.

On March 9, Gonzales admitted publicly that Ashcroft couldn’t sign the reauthorization.

Gonzales reasoned that Ashcroft, who was still hospitalized, was not in any condition to sign a renewal of the Authorization, and that a "30-day bridge" would move the situation to a point where Ashcroft would be well enough to approve the program.

But on March 10, here’s what happened. 

Gonzales told the DOJ OIG that he carried with him in a manila envelope the March 11, 2004, Presidential Authorization for Ashcroft to sign. According to Philbin, Gonzales first asked Ashcroft how he was feeling and Ashcroft replied, "Not well." Gonzales thetn said words to the effect, "You know, there’s a reauthorization that has to be renewed…" 

I know none of you had any doubt that Gonzales knew full well Ashcroft shouldn’t sign that reauthorization. But if you needed proof, now you’ve got it. 

You Think Alberto Gonzales Knows There’s Not a “Department of Law”?

Let’s hope so, because Texas Tech just hired Gonzales to teach what appears to be a PoliSci course. (h/t Wonkette)

Alberto Gonzales, who resigned as the Bush administration’s embattled attorney general nearly two years ago, has lined up a fall-semester teaching spot at Texas Tech University, the university confirmed today.

Gonzales, who was Gov. George W. Bush’s lawyer and Texas secretary of state before joining Bush in Washington, will be working in the university’s political science department, teaching a “special topics” course on contemporary issues in the executive branch, according to Dora Rodriguez, a senior business assistant in the department.

Maybe Sarah Palin can use her soon-to-be-abundant free time and go learn how the guy running the Department of Law can protect the President from any legal consequences for his actions.

One important detail: note that Texas Tech is not employing AGAG to teach law. I guess in this day and age, even Texas schools want to avoid having John Yoo problems.

Cheney’s and Gonzales’ CYA Libraries

On March 12 or 13, 2004, after Jim Comey threatened to quit because George Bush had reauthorized warrantless wiretapping over Comey’s objections, Bush ordered Alberto Gonzales to write up notes of his March 10, 2004 meeting with members of Congress; the congressional meeting would serve as Gonzales’ excuse for having visited John Ashcroft in the ICU ward. Gonzales would go on to carry those notes around with him in a briefcase, thereby violating rules on treating classified information. After moving to DOJ in 2005, Gonzales did not feel safe leaving the documents in one of the DOJ safes accessible by–among others–Jim Comey (there was also one in the AG office that woudl presumably not be accessible to Comey).

On June 1, 2005, the day after Alberto Gonzales claims to have passed on Jim Comey’s warning to the NSC Principals Committee of the fallout that would come from their continuing to approve torture, the CIA produced a document that purported to tell the benefits of the torture program. That is one of two documents Cheney requested from the National Archives earlier this year to prove that torture worked. It is a document Cheney kept in his "immediate office files" in a file called "detainees."

And if that doesn’t make you suspect Cheney and Gonzales got worried enough to start building up their own little CYA libraries to protect themselves from the torture (and wiretap) fallout, consider some of the other document included in Alberto Gonzales’ briefcase of highly classified documents.

The classified materials that are the subject of this investigation consist of notes that Gonzales drafted to memorialize a classified briefing of congressional leaders about the NSA surveillance program when Gonzales was the White House Counsel; draft and final Office of Legal Counsel opinions about both the NSA surveillance program and a detainee interrogation program;

[snip]

The envelope containing the documents relating to a detainee interrogation program bore classification markings related to that program. Each document inside the envelopes had a cover sheet and header-footer markings indicating the document was TS/SCI. The documents related to the NSA surveillance program discussed in Gonzales’s handwritten notes as well as to a detainee interrogation program. The documents included Office of Legal Counsel opinions that discuss the legal bases for various aspects of the compartmented programs, memoranda summarizing the operational details of the programs, [my emphasis]

Now, as I understand it, only the 2005 memos–and not the 2002 or 2003 memos authorizing torture–bear the markings of the compartment of that program (the middle redacted phrase, as I understand it, would be the compartment). Read more

All the News NYT Does Not See Fit to Print

nyt-dom-dada.jpg

As I have pointed out in the last two posts, the NYT has a story up claiming that Jim Comey approved of torture, but that grossly misreads the Comey emails on which the story is based. In fact, the memos appear to show that the White House–especially Dick Cheney and David Addington–were pushing DOJ to approve the torture that had been done to Hassan Ghul, without the specificity to record what they had done to him; in fact, one of the things the push on the memos appears to have prevented, was for Comey and Philbin to have actually researched what happened to Ghul.

But the NYT instead claims that Jim Comey approved of torture legally, even while downplaying his concerns about the "combined techniques" memo that was the focus of his concerns (and not mentioning his response to the third memo).

But there is more news than that in the Comey emails–news the Grey Lady doesn’t seem to think is news. This includes:

Pressure on Pat Philbin

On April 27, 2005, Jim Comey alerted Chuck Rosenberg, his then Chief of Staff, on the fight over the torture emails because he was about to go on a trip, and he figured Pat Philbin would need cover from political pressure. He described that Philbin’s concerns about the memo were ignored. He closed the email by saying that Gonzales had visited the White House and–in spite of Comey’s request for a delay–told Philbin and Bradbury to finish the memo by Friday, April 29. Philbin objected that that was not enough time to do the "fact gathering" needed to fix the memo. Comey was basically asking Rosenberg to prepare to intercede on this process.

The following day, Comey emailed again to say that Ted Ullyot (who had just been read-in to this program) was pushing to get the memo done. It also appears that Ullyot was claiming Comey’s objections had to do with the prototypical interrogation included in the memo, and not the lack of specificity.

Alberto Gonzales’ Cowardice

Comey describes Dick Cheney putting a great deal of pressure on Alberto Gonzales to push through the memos in the last weeks of April.

The AG explained that he was under great pressure from the Vice President to complete both memos, and that the President had even raised it last week, apparently at the VP’s request and the AG had promised they would be ready early this week. Read more