A Justice Department ethics unit is questioning the role played by government lawers in approving the NSA's domestic eavesdropping program. It seems
that President Bush personally made the decision to block the Justice Department's ethics unit from the examination.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that President Bush personally decided to block
the Justice Department ethics unit from examining the role played by government lawyers in approving the National Security Agency's domestic
Gonzales made the assertion in response to questioning from Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman. Specter complained that the Justice
Department's Office of Professional Responsibility had to call off an investigation into the conduct of department lawyers who evaluated the
surveillance program because the unit was denied clearance to review classified documents. "Why wasn't OPR given clearance as so many other lawyers
in the Department of Justice were given clearance?" Specter asked.
"The president of the United States makes decisions about who is ultimately given access," Gonzales replied, adding that the president "makes the
decision because this is such an important program."
The head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, Marshall Jarrett, began the investigation in response to requests from members of Congress in
January. But in May, Jarrett told Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., that he could not proceed because he and his colleagues had been denied security
clearances to review the history of the secret surveillance program.
The shutting down of Jarrett's efforts had been reported, but Gonzales' comments Tuesday during a hearing on oversight of the Justice Department
were the first acknowledgment of Bush's direct role.
Administration officials said that Bush made the decision because he felt that there were other avenues of oversight, including investigations by the
inspectors general of the Justice Department and the National Security Agency as well as intelligence committees of both houses.
"We had to draw the line somewhere," said a senior Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of
authorization to comment. "There was already lots of oversight on this program, and we had to consider the interest" in protecting the program's
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U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the end of this article states that it is "our longstanding practice, and it remains so today, that we
pursue the leaker." with this in mind we can expect this issue to become a true political hemorrhoid for president Bush.
Gonzales also stated that the administration "hopes to work with responsible journalists and persuade them not to publish" such stories. could this
be construed as a form of government censorship and intimidation? one thing is for sure the issue of government eavesdropping is not going away
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[edit on 19-7-2006 by DontTreadOnMe]