Alberto Gonzales

DOJ Officials Support Report, Boss

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Updated: Did Attorney General Alberto Gonzales misspeak in April 2005 when he made this statement to senators? “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse” of the FBI’s investigative powers under the USA Patriot Act.

It all depends on what the meaning of “abuse” is, according to a Justice Department official who spoke to the Washington Post.

The newspaper reported yesterday that Gonzales had received at least six reports of procedural or legal violations by the FBI in the three months before his Senate intelligence testimony. (See this post for more details.)

Kenneth Wainstein, who is assistant attorney general for national security, confirmed that he had discussed FBI violations with Gonzales. But he cited the dictionary definition of abuse and said Gonzales was saying the FBI had not committed any intentional violations of the law.

That is why I cited the definition of abuse, which in Webster’s … implies some sort of intentional conduct,” Wainstein said. “And I think that is sort of the common understanding of the word ‘abuse.’ “

Wainstein spoke with the Post in a telephone conference call arranged by Justice Department press officials following its story on Gonzales yesterday.

James Baker, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, also confirmed in the call that he had talked to Gonzales about “mistakes the FBI has made or problems or violations or compliance incidents, however you want to refer to them.”

Baker said the reports often described inadvertent violations, such as overcollection of phone data or surveillance that went beyond what had been authorized.

The New York Times comments on the Post report in an editorial today, saying, “This is hardly the first time Mr. Gonzales has played so free and loose with the facts.”

“In the United States attorneys scandal—the controversy over the political purge of nine top prosecutors—Mr. Gonzales and his aides have twisted and mutilated the truth beyond recognition,” the Times says.

Originally posted 07-11-2007 7:41 AM.

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