Gonzo Testifies


Back in Aught Four, you may have heard, when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the hospital recovering from surgery, his deputy and acting Attorney General James Comey refused to reauthorize the NSA's domestic wiretapping program. Chief of Staff Andy Card and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales rushed to Ashcroft's hospital room to ask him to override Comey's decision, but Ashcroft refused.

Testifying before the Senate last week, Gonzo said that the late-night hospital room showdown hadn't been about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which he describes as surveillance targeted at international communications involving people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda. The government has publicly admitted this program and defends its legality. In January, the government claimed to have obtained a FISA judge's authorization to continue the program, which had until then been completely without judicial supervision.

Now it turns out that the program had actually been a massive dragnet capturing information about Americans' calls and emails, likely using some form of automated analysis to determine which calls to listen to the content of. This kind of data-mining may have stopped after the hospital showdown, leaving the NSA with the targeted Terrorist Surveillance Program Gonzo has been talking about.

Wired's Threat Level blog has been doing great reporting on this. And don't miss Talking Points Memo's video summary of Gonzo's latest testimony: they've crafted a symphony of dodges, avoidances, and i-have-no-clear-recollections.

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