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Which NSA Program Was It? And What Else Are/Were They Doing?

NSA sealWe’ve now had two senior members of the Bush Administration — one-time Acting AG James Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller — give testimony that appears to contradict Alberto Gonzales’ sworn testimony about illegal NSA spying. But all three men have tap danced around what is meant by the terms “terrorist surveillance program” that was “acknowledged by the President.” Instead of watching Tony Snow imitate Ron Ziegler, it’s time for these men to tell the truth — the whole truth, because their word games are in reality covering up what are likely to be multiple felonies.

Glenn Greenwald [update: and Marty Lederman] already gave us the right questions: What does the program called “TSP” include? Is the TSP the same program about which Comey testified when he said that he and other top officials of the Department of Justice were prepared to resign because of the program’s illegality? Or was he talking about a different program [or vintages thereof] or programs? What was involved in each of these programs? And which program was the subject of the hospital room meeting involving Gonalzes, Card and Ashcroft?

These are straightforward questions, and each of the officials above knows the answers. Congress has a right to know what the government is doing, whether it is illegal and how it came to be approved. Congress also has an obligation to find out why three of the most senior Administration officials responsible for upholding the law appear to be accusing each other of lying about matters that involve one or more programs that the Acting Attorney General and Attorney General Ashcroft found to be illegal and over which they and the Director of the FBI were prepared to resign. If the illegality relates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as appears almost certain, then the “illegality” involves multiple felonies.

And in case the media is confused about where this leads, Reagan era DoJ official Bruce Fein made it clear for everyone on Hardball: What about Tony Snow’s denials? “He’s Ron Zeigler during Watergate.” So what? Can Congress put Gonzales in jail for lying? “No. . . . What they can do and have to do is begin impeachment proceedings.” See MSNBC video for “Gonzales in trouble.”

I think the country has had enough of Gonzales and enough of these word games. Drag every one of these Bush officials before a closed hearing, put them under oath and order them to sort this out. Then provide a credible explanation to the American people and let us know who is telling the truth and who isn’t, and what should happen to the latter. If any official refuses to cooperate, hold them in contempt of Congress and pursue prosecution of the liars. If this turns out as we all expect, then start impeachment investigations and add this entire sorry episode to the list of impeachable offenses. Enough.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley