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FBI Chief Contradicts Gonzales Testimony
But Gonzales took the toughest hits Thursday, when four Senate Democrats issued a list of examples of what they said was the attorney general lying to Congress under oath _ the basis for their request to Clement to appoint a special counsel to investigate.
Among examples of what Democrats called Gonzales' untruthfulness was his insistence in his statement to the Judiciary Committee Tuesday that his hospital visit with Ashcroft was not related to an internal administration dispute about the president's secret warrantless eavesdropping program.
Last year, Gonzales told the panel that there had been no internal administration dispute about the program, but former Deputy Attorney General James Comey told the panel that he, Ashcroft and Mueller were among the top Justice Department officials who believed the program was illegal and were prepared to resign over it.
In his own sworn testimony Thursday, Mueller contradicted Gonzales, saying under questioning that the terrorist surveillance program, or TSP, was the topic of the hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials.
Mueller was not in the hospital room at the time of the March 10, 2004, confrontation between Ashcroft and presidential advisers Andy Card and Gonzales, who was then serving as White House counsel. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee he arrived shortly after they left, and then spoke with the ailing Ashcroft.
"Did you have an understanding that the discussion was on TSP?" asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, in a round of questioning that may have sounded to listeners like bureaucratic alphabet soup.
"I had an understanding the discussion was on a NSA program, yes," Mueller answered.
Jackson Lee sought to clarify: "We use 'TSP,' we use 'warrantless wiretapping,' so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?"
"The discussion was on a national NSA program that has been much discussed, yes," Mueller responded.
The NSA, or National Security Agency, runs the program that eavesdropped on terror suspects in the United States, without court approval, until last January, when the program was put under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
In a statement late Thursday, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse maintained Gonzales was referring during his testimony to a separate intelligence operation that has not yet been revealed.
"The disagreement that occurred in March 2004 concerned the legal basis for intelligence activities that have not been publicly disclosed and that remain highly classified," Roehrkasse said.