Gonzales rapped for letter suggesting additional secret programs

Gonzales rapped for letter suggesting additional secret programs

[JURIST] Ranking US Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy [official website] rapped Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Wednesday after Gonzales sent a letter [PDF] to Judiciary Committee members purporting to offer clarifications of his testimony [JURIST report] last month on the NSA domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] authorized by the White House and hinting that that secret program might not be the only one in operation.

Leahy expressed surprise and concern at what he called Gonzales' "unusual letter seeking to modify your February 6 testimony":

Much of your letter is devoted to not providing answers to the questions of a number of us regarding legal justifications for activities beyond those narrowly conceded by you to have already been confirmed by the President. We need to know what other activities affecting Americans’ rights you view as justified by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Please provide answers to the following questions:

Do other programs of warrantless electronic surveillance exist? Do other programs of warrantless physical searches or mail searches exist? Which agencies run these programs and how long have they been in operation? What legal standards apply to these other programs?…

At the February 6 hearing you were confronted with your January 2001 testimony from your confirmation hearing, which appeared to many Senators to have been misleading. I expect that your letter yesterday was an attempt to provide some defense to a charge that you misled the Committee, again, in your testimony on February 6. You seek to add qualifiers and to hedge already vague answers about the shifting legal analysis for the President’s domestic spying program without judicial approval and about the scope of activities undertaken secretly based on your expansive interpretation of inherent powers of the unitary executive not based on statutory authorities.

It is no secret that the Department of Justice has exhibited a disturbingly arrogant pattern of unresponsiveness to questions that I and other Democratic Senators have posed on many issues in the past. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight of this Administration in order to ensure its accountability to all Americans. Indeed, the Democratic members of the Committee are still waiting for answers to questions we posed following your February 6th hearing that were due yesterday.

Read the full text of Leahy's letter. The Washington Post has more.