White House backs Gonzales on Senate testimony
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 28, 2007
WASHINGTON - The White House labored Friday to explain how apparently dueling testimony from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI director Robert Mueller was not at odds.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly and emphatically said President Bush's secret warrantless domestic spying program was not the subject of disagreement in 2004 within the Bush administration. Mueller, appearing Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, said it was.
The apparent contradiction only compounded problems for Gonzales, who is losing support among members even as he retains that of Bush.
Gonzales has been on the political defensive - mostly over doubts about his credibility - since Congress seven months ago began investigating the firings of U.S. attorneys. In the process, questions have arisen about Gonzales' involvement in the surveillance program, designed to monitor the international communications of people in the United States with suspected ties to terrorists.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said Gonzales testified accurately that there was no internal dispute over the spying activities the administration launched in 2001 that have since been called the "terrorist surveillance program."
"There has never been at any juncture along the line any disagreement about the propriety or legality of that program," Snow said.
He said the program's "legal basis" was not at issue and emphasized that his statements applied only to a program as "defined very narrowly and carefully."
He acknowledged that other matters were a subject of controversy. But he said that since they are classified, he could not address what they were or whether they were connected to the eavesdropping program.
The eavesdropping was conducted without public knowledge until it was disclosed in the media in December 2005 and without court approval until January, when it was put under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
[Last modified July 28, 2007, 01:25:42]
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