The thing I'm really having problems understanding is Gonzales' testimony about what he told the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 6, 2006 when that committee was still chaired by a Republican. As near as I can make out, Gonzales told the committee that there had been no dispute with the Justice Department over the legality of the NSA spying program which the Senate Judiciary Committee was investigating. Senator Feingold had questions of Gonzales' candor at that meeting which he expressed on TPMCafe.com the next day.
On May 15 this year (2007) this assurance appeared to be contradicted when James Comey expressed his and Attorney General John Ashcroft's objections to renewal of the program in March 2004 when Comey was handling Ashcroft's responsibilities while Ashcroft was in the hospital. At yesterday's hearing, Gonzales was trying to reconcile his own February 6, 2006 statements with Comey's claim. None of the committee senators seemed to be buying what Gonzales was saying.
As near as I can tell, and I'm not at all certain that I have this correctly because it is quite confusing, but I believe that yesterday Gonzales said that when he testified on February 6, 2006, he wasn't talking about the spy program that Comey had objected to. Everyone just assumed that that was what he was talking about but he was actually talking about another spy program with which the Department of Justice had not seen any problems with. The program that Comey and Ashcroft and other Justice officials objected to was not the program that Gonzales was talking about on February 6, 2006.
I know, how do you keep all this straight? I'm just one little guy but even the senators serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee seem confused about this. Gonzales seems content to leave it at that for now. He didn't explain things yesterday.
But here's my guess:
The New York Times outed this secret program on December 16, 2005.
President Bush admitted to and defended the program on several occasions in the seven weeks between this New York Times article and Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 6, 2006.
When Gonzales testified February 6, 2006, he was testifying about the NSA spy program that President Bush had been publicly defending, or rather, he was talking about the aspects of the program that the President had made public.
What Gonzales now appears to be saying is that this program which the President had been publicly defending is not the program which Comey and the Department of Justice had opposed in March 2004. Comey's objection was to aspects of this program which President Bush had not been defending publicly in the previous six weeks.
I'm just speculating, mind you, but this kind of splitting hairs has been a Bush Administration and especially an Alberto Gonzales trademark. Gonzales yesterday in his defense admitted to the existence of secret spy programs other than the "terrorist surveillance program" described by President Bush.
But what he is now saying is that he admitted the existence of this program on February 6, 2006 and the senators on the Judiciary Committee just didn't pick up on it at the time.
Confusing? My gosh! Why would anyone think that? Is it any wonder that Congress and the American public question the credibility of the US Attorney General's testimony taken under oath?