Unclassified Report On The President's Surveillance Program
VII. PUBLIC STATEMENTS ABOUT THE PRESIDENT'S SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
As noted above, aspects of the PSP were first disclosed publicly in a series of articles in The New York Times in December 2005. Subsequently, Attorney General Gonzales was questioned about NSA surveillance activities in two public hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2006 and July 2007. As part of its review, the DOJ OIG examined whether Attorney General Gonzales made false, inaccurate, or misleading statements to Congress related to the PSP in those hearings.
Through media accounts and former Deputy Attorney General Comey's Senate Judiciary Committee testimony in May 2007, it was publicly revealed that DOJ and the White House had a major disagreement related to the PSP in March 2004. As discussed in Section IV of this unclassified report, this dispute - which resulted in the visit to Attorney General Ashcroft's hospital room by Gonzales and Card and brought several senior DOJ and FBI officials to the brink of resignation - concerned certain of the Other Intelligence Activities that were different from the communication interception activities that the President later publicly acknowledged as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, but that had been implemented through the same Presidential Authorizations.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales stated that the dispute at issue between DOJ and the White House did not relate to the Terrorist Surveillance Program that the President had confirmed, but rather pertained to other intelligence activities. The DOJ OIG concluded that this testimony created the misimpression that the dispute concerned activities entirely unrelated to the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which was not accurate. As previously noted, both activities had been authorized by the President in a single Presidential Authorization.
In addition, the DOJ OIG concluded that Gonzales's testimony that DOJ attorneys did not have "reservations" or "concerns" about the program the "President has confirmed" (the Terrorist Surveillance Program) was incomplete and confusing. As detailed in Chapter Four of the DOJ OIG report, there also was a dispute about this portion of the program. Although this dispute was not the subject of the hospital room confrontation or the threatened resignations, DOJ's concerns over this issue were communicated to the White House in several meetings over a period of months prior to and including March 2004 before the issue was resolved.
The DOJ OIG recognized that Attorney General Gonzales was in the difficult position of testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about a highly classified program in an open forum. However, the DOJ OIG concluded that Gonzales, as a participant in the March 2004 dispute between the White House and DOJ and, more importantly, as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, had a duty to balance his obligation not to disclose classified information with the need not to be misleading in his testimony about the events that nearly led to resignations of several senior officials at DOJ and the FBI. The DOJ OIG concluded that Gonzales did not intend to mislead Congress, but it found that his testimony was confusing, inaccurate, and had the effect of misleading those who were not knowledgeable about the program.
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