President Bush personally intervened to prevent Justice Department lawyers from conducting
a review of their department's involvement in the NSA domestic wiretapping program -- so says Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, according
Under sharp questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Gonzales said that the president would not grant the access needed to allow the probe to move forward.
âIt was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?â asked Specter, R-Pa., referring to the Office of Professional Responsibility.
âThe president of the United States makes the decision,â Gonzales told the committee hearing, during which he was strongly criticized on a range of national security issues by Specter and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the panelâs senior Democrat.
As Paul wrote
in May, the Justice OPR probe was not to examine the program itself, but to see whether Justice Department officials (including Gonzales and his predecessor, John Ashcroft) had acted properly in approving and overseeing the NSA program.
The probe was blocked with a weak bureaucratic move -- refusing to allow OPR access to its agency's own documents because they supposedly lacked the proper clearance (or any way to get it). That gambit saved Gonzales -- and, by extension, the White House -- from the risk of being told they were breaking the law.