WH Counsel Gonzo To DOJ: When We Said We Cared About Your Legal Opinions On Surveillance, We Didn’t Really Mean It

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July 10, 2009 1:17 p.m.

Another great nugget from that just-released inspector generals’ report on surveillance…

Check out the amazing 2004 letter from Alberto Gonzales, at the time the White House counsel, to then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who had raised “serious issues” about the legal basis of the surveillance program, and particularly the lack of congressional notification.Wrote Gonzo to Comey:

Your misunderstanding appears to have been based on a misunderstanding of the President’s expectations regarding the conduct of the Department of Justice. While the President was, and remains, interested in any thoughts the Department of Justice may have on alternative ways to achieve effectively the goals of the activities authorized by the Presidential Authorization of March 11. 2004, the President has addressed definitively for the Excutive Branch in the Presidential Authorization the interpretation of the law.

In other words, Gonzo, on behalf of the White House, is telling Comey and DOJ: You don’t understand. When we said we were interested in DOJ’s opinion about what’s legal and what’s not, we were only kidding. We’ve already decided for ourselves.

It’s easy to see why, the following year, President Bush decided to simplify the process by just installing Gonzales to run the Justice Department.

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