I'd never thought I'd say this, but... somebody get Dick Cheney on message!
Alberto Gonzales and the administration have gone to great pains
to say that the March 2004 hospital showdown was not
about the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- no, it was about "other intelligence activities
." And the Terrorist Surveillance Program is a phrase, they've said, that refers very narrowly
to the surveillance activities confirmed by the President in December of 2005.
But Cheney got a little sloppy during his interview with Larry King:
Q In that regard, The New York Times -- which, as you said, is not your favorite -- reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the President's intelligence-gathering program. Was it you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't recall -- first of all, I haven't seen the story. And I don't recall that I gave instructions to that effect.
Q That would be something you would recall.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I would think so. But certainly I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and had been responsible and working with General Hayden and George Tenet to get it to the President for approval. By the time this occurred, it had already been approved about 12 times by the Department of Justice. There was nothing new about it.
Q So you didn't send them to get permission.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital.
D'oh! So according to Cheney, the dispute was
about the TSP. Too bad Cheney doesn't understand that the dispute was really about certain intelligence activities authorized by the president of which the Terrorist Surveillance Program (i.e. the program publicly described by the president) was only an uncontroversial part. Why can't he keep that straight? It's so simple.
So lump Cheney in with FBI Director Bob Mueller
, Rep. Jane Harman
(D-CA), Sen. Russ Feingold
(D-WI) and others who've been briefed on the NSA surveillance program and refer to a single
program, called the TSP for a shorthand, which dates back to October, 2001 and is comprised of more than the limited facet
acknowledged by the President.
I posted this excerpt yesterday, but missed this implicit admission that the dispute was about the TSP. So thanks to TPM Reader JS
and commenter barney for the catch.Note
: Marty Lederman points
to another revealing admission in this excerpt -- Cheney's implication that he could give "directions" to White House officials who work, of course, for the President.