Saturday, March 17, 2007

OPR investigation: the new, bigger Gonzales-gate?

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

And while we're on the subject of criminal White House behavior, here's a story which seems to carry the potential for actionable (read impeachable) offence.
Remember waaay back when there was a bit of a tiff over the revelation that the National Security Agency was surveilling Americans without the judicial oversight required by the US constitution.

It was in the papers a while but then kind of went away because, funny story, the President of the United States denied security clearance to the government officials investigating the case.

Sure, some folks questioned this at the time, but with no investigation there were no facts to report, and hence no news. And, funny story, the Republican dominated Congress declined to investigate further.

Well, are you ready for another funny story?

Turns out that former White House counsel and current Attorney General (at least at the moment), Alberto Gonzales, knew at the time he was advising the President about how to deal with the NSA surveillance investigation, that he (Alberto) was personally a target of that same investigation.

The invaluable Murray Waas:

Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

It is unclear whether the president knew at the time of his decision that the Justice inquiry -- to be conducted by the department's internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility -- would almost certainly examine the conduct of his attorney general.

So, here's a time line for you:
  1. The NYTimes reveals the existence of the NSA's domestic spying program, brouhaha ensues.
  2. OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility, a branch of the Justice Department) announces that it will be investigating the NSA.
  3. Then White House Counsel Gonzales learns that he will also be a subject of the OPR investigation.
  4. Gonzales' client, aka George W. Bush, then quashes the investigation by denying the OPR investigators security clearance to investigate the NSA.
This being the case, two possibilities remain.

Gonzales didn't tell Bush that Gonzales was a subject of the investigation, with-holding pertinent information from his boss who then quashed the investigation for the purported national security reasons.


Gonzales told Bush that he was a subject of the investigation, as one might expect given their relationship, and Bush quashed the investigation to save his protege's ass, using national security as his Nixonian excuse.

If the former was the case Gonzales was merely as incompetent a White House Counsel as he is an AG.

If the latter was the case Bush, Gonzales, and anyone else aware of the situation, was involved in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Bush has dodged bullets (figuratively only if you please) all his life, but without a compliant GOP congress to look the other way, will he dodge this one?

[For more background Murray Waas is the go to guy on this story. See his articles here and here.]

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