Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gonzales: Bush Blocked Eavesdropping Probe

This is amazing. I keep wondering how long the U.S. sheeple will endure this president before demanding impeachment.

WaPo , July 18, 2006; 2:50 PM

President Bush personally blocked an internal investigation into the role played by Justice Department lawyers in approving a controversial warrantless eavesdropping program on calls between the United States and overseas, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified today.
During an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales was questioned by the panel's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), on why staffers in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility were not allowed security clearances necessary to conduct an investigation into the eavesdropping program.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access," Specter asked. "Why not OPR?""The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales answered.
The exchange was part of a wide-ranging and often tense hearing touching on many of the most controversial topics related to the Justice Department, from leak prosecutions to the Supreme Court's recent ruling invalidating the Bush administration's commissions for detainees in military custody.

The eavesdropping program, begun in secret after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and revealed in press reports last December, allows the NSA to intercept telephone calls between the United States and overseas without court approval and has been the focus of months of political debate over its legality.

OPR, the Justice Department's internal affairs office, announced earlier this year that it was unable to investigate the role that department lawyers played in the program because it was repeatedly denied the necessary security clearances. Until today, Gonzales and other Justice officials had declined to provide details on who made the decision to block the Justice probe.
In a related letter to Specter, also released today, Gonzales wrote that Bush decided that limits had to be placed on the number of officials with access to details about the NSA effort, which the administration dubbed the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" several weeks after its existence was revealed.

"The president decided that protecting the secrecy and security of the program requires that a strict limit be placed on the number of persons granted access to information about the program for non-operational reasons," Gonzales wrote. "Every additional security clearance that is granted for the TSP increases the risk that national security might be compromised."
But in a series of memos to Gonzales's deputy also released today, OPR chief H. Marshall Jarrett noted that "a large team of attorneys and agents" assigned to a criminal investigation of the disclosure of the NSA program were promptly granted the same clearances. He also noted that numerous other investigators and officials--including the members of a civil-liberties board--had been granted access to or briefed on the program.

"In contrast, our repeated requests for access to classified information about the NSA program have not been granted," Jarrett wrote on March 21. "As a result, this Office, which is charged with monitoring the integrity of the Department's attorneys and with ensuring that the highest standards of professional ethics are maintained, has been precluded from performing its duties."