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Gonzales Gang of Eight Meeting


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In his testimony yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that when James Comey raised objections to the administration's spying program, he was referring to other intelligence activities, not the warrantless wiretapping program that Bush has confirmed.

 

Gonzales's big problem is that he told the Senate on February 6, 2006 that no one within the Justice Department dissented from President Bush's warrantless surveillance program, a contention made dubious by James Comey's testimony in May that, as acting attorney general in March 2004, Comey refused to reauthorize a program he considered illegal.

 

Yesterday, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), who was ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, said he was never told of other intelligence activities. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one intelligence program, Rockefeller said.

 

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales repeatedly made references to the "Gang of Eight" when being questioned about the warrantless surveillance/ domestic spying while testifying at the Justice Department Oversight hearing held July 24, 2007.

 

One "Gang of Eight" member, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who was present at this classified briefing took issue with Gonzales even speaking about the meeting, "'The attorney general is selectively declassifying material from a classified briefing, which I find improper.'"

 

In today's Times, another member of the Gang of Eight, speaking anonymously, backs Gonzales: "Speaking on condition of anonymity, he confirmed the attorney general’s testimony that the group reached a “consensus” that the disputed intelligence activity should continue and that passing emergency legislation would risk revealing secrets."

 

In March 2004, a dispute arose over the legality of a secret intelligence wiretapping program. Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft was in the hospital after a gallbladder operation, and James Comey was acting attorney general. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (shown) now the attorney general, went with Andrew Card, White House chief of staff at the time, to Ashcroft's bedside to get him to reauthorize the program.

 

Apparent discrepancies and evasions in Attorney General Gonzalez' testimony is leading several senators to call for charges of perjury.

 

The Gang of Eight is a common colloquial term for a set of eight leaders of the U.S. Congress. Specifically, the Gang of Eight includes the leaders of each of the two parties from each of the two houses of Congress and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees of each of the two houses of Congress.

 

The President of the United States is required by 50 U.S.C. § 413(a)(1) to "ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States." However, the President may elect to report instead to the Gang of Eight when he feels "it is essential to limit access" to information about a covert action.

 

The term "Gang of Eight" gained wide currency in the coverage of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program, in the context that no members of Congress other than the Gang of Eight were informed of the program, and they were forbidden to disseminate knowledge of the program to other members of Congress. The Bush administration has asserted that the briefings delivered to the Gang of Eight sufficed to provide Congressional oversight of the program and preserve the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.

 

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service released a legal analysis on January 18, 2006, concluding that the Bush administration's refusal to brief any members of Congress on the warrantless domestic spying program other than the Gang of Eight is "inconsistent with the law." The New York Times The Washington Post

 

Current Members of the Gang of Eight

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

John Boehner, Republican House Leader

Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Leader

Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Leader

Silvestre Reyes, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Peter Hoekstra, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

John D. Rockefeller, IV, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Kit Bond Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

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