Asked before a Senate panel whether he could promise that no one besides suspected terrorists were being eavesdropped upon under the Bush Administration's domestic wiretap program, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today remarked that he could not promise that agents were not listening in on non-suspects' calls.
Senator Joe Biden (D-NJ): “Can you assure us, General, you are fully, totally informed and confident that you know the absolute detail with which this program is being conducted? Can you assure us you personally can assure us no one is being eavesdropped upon in the United States other than -- other than someone who has a communication that is emanating from foreign soil by a suspected terrorist, al Qaeda, or otherwise?”
Attorney General Gonzales: “Sir, I can't give you absolute assurance.”
Biden: “Who can?”
Gonzales: “Certainly General Hayden knows more about the operational details of this [program]. What I can give the American people assurance is that we have a number of safeguards in place so that we can say with a high degree of confidence or certainly certainty that what the president has authorized in connection with this program, that those procedures are being followed.”
On Friday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked General Hayden how many Americans were being tapped. Hayden, who Gonzales said knew the most about the program, didn't know. This comes despite an article in Sunday's Washington Post, which revealed that about 5,000 Americans had their calls intercepted by the taps.
Senator Levin: “Can you give us an estimate as to the number of such communications which were tracked by NSA last year, just an estimate?”
Senator Pat Robert (R-KS): “Can't do that.”
General Hayden: “Sorry. I'd be very uncomfortable doing it in open session. And I don't actually know that number.”