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Bush administration responds to request for info on Gonzales testimony
Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday July 31, 2007


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The Bush administration has responded to a Republican senator's request for information about Alberto Gonzales's conflicting testimony on a secret surveillance program hours after a 12 p.m. Tuesday deadline, a senior GOP senator said Tuesday.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, still is waiting for a requested response from Gonzales himself, which had yet to be delivered Tuesday night, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

The letter Specter received from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell seeks to clarify earlier testimony from Gonzales in which he said there was not "serious disagreement" among administration officials over a classified National Security Agency surveillance program.

The letter seems to back up a report in the New York Times over the weekend that said Gonzales' responses to Congress are technically correct because only "one particular aspect" of a secret program was acknowledged by President Bush -- the warrantless wiretapping program -- and it wasn't that particular aspect Gonzales was referring to in testimony that has come under question, according to parts of the letter reported earlier Tuesday by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

ThinkProgress has video of Malveaux's report.

Specter refused to comment on details of McConnell's letter before he received a response from Gonzales that would "interpret" the first letter. The Pennsylvania Republican also said going into detail about the letter would involve revealing classified information.

Specter said yesterday that he requested from the Bush administration a "letter addressing that question [of Gonzales' veracity] from the administration" by noon Tuesday, according to The Hill. He promised to release the letter to the media, but so far the letter has not done so, presumably waiting for Gonzales' response.

CNN reported McConnell's letter declared that NSA programs other than the wiretapping program acknowledged by Bush are classified and cannot be discussed.

"So what they’re saying is everything else is secret but what he was talking about specifically was the Terrorist Surveillance Program," Malveaux said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee chairman who also is expected to receive the administration's response, told RAW STORY Tuesday afternoon that he had not seen the letter.

Specter has been critical of Gonzales's performance and lack of credibility in his past testimony, but so far Specter has not signed on to a Democratic proposal for a special counsel to investigate whether the attorney general perjured himself.

Blitzer asked Specter whether his conclusion to an unsatisfactory response from Gonzales would "be like other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: He did lie."

"Well, if he doesn't have a plausible explanation, then he hasn't leveled with the committee," Specter said. "That's right."

Earlier in the interview, Specter said Gonzales "did not tell us the whole story" regarding his involvement in the US Attorney-firing scandal.

But the attorney general's critic demurred when asked if he would support the Democrats perjury investigation, citing a Ruth Marcus column printed Tuesday in the Washington Post.

"We're in the business of finding out the facts and legislating," Specter said. "Right now, we're facing a very serious situation on a terrorist threat. ... We can take care of Gonzales later."