Report Faults Gonzales On Data

Report Faults Gonzales On Data
September 3rd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Report Faults Gonzales On Data

Report Faults Gonzales On Data
New York Times
September 3, 2008
Pg. 15

By Eric Lichtblau
WASHINGTON — Former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales mishandled highly classified information relating to the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program and the administration’s prisoner interrogation program, an internal report concluded Tuesday.
The Justice Department inspector general, who investigated Mr. Gonzales’s handling of the documents, said he kept classified material at his home and in an office safe in violation of security procedures. The inspector general referred the matter to the national security division of the Justice Department for possible criminal action, but officials there declined to prosecute Mr. Gonzales.
Mr. Gonzales’s mishandling of the classified documents adds a new embarrassment to the long list of problems that tainted his tenure as attorney general. He resigned one year ago, after two and a half years in the job, in the face of growing criticism from lawmakers over his role in the N.S.A. wiretapping program and in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys.
The office of Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in its report that Mr. Gonzales had mishandled 18 documents that were considered S.C.I. classification, or sensitive compartmentalized information, a security category for documents considered more tightly controlled than top secret.
The most sensitive material among the documents was Mr. Gonzales’s handwritten account of an emergency meeting at the White House on March 10, 2004, regarding the N.S.A. wiretapping program.
Mr. Gonzales, who was then White House counsel, called the meeting with the eight highest-ranking members of Congress after James Comey, then the deputy attorney general, refused to certify the legality of the agency’s program. At the time, Attorney General John Ashcroft was in intensive care in the hospital after gallbladder surgery.
President Bush had secretly authorized the wiretapping program in October 2001, three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, to allow the N.S.A. to eavesdrop on the international communications of Americans suspected of terrorism ties without getting a court order normally required in such circumstances. The Federal Bureau of Investigation began conducting an inquiry into the possible unauthorized disclosure of classified information after a New York Times article on the program in December 2005.
Concerns about the legality of the program by Mr. Comey and other top Justice Department officials sparked a near revolt at the department after Mr. Gonzales and Andrew Card, then White House chief of staff, made a nighttime visit to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to try to get him to overrule his deputy’s decision.
Hours before the visit, Mr. Gonzales had briefed the eight Congressional leaders about the Justice Department’s legal protests and, according to prior accounts, discussed emergency legislation to allow the program to go forward without its approval. Mr. Gonzales told the inspector general’s investigators that Mr. Bush instructed him to make a written account of the meeting, and he drafted his notes in a spiral notebook a few days later.
The inspector general said those notes included “operational aspects of the program,” along with its classified code name, and constituted a highly classified document that should have been stored in what is known as a SCIF, or a government storage area used to secure the most highly classified material.
Mr. Gonzales told investigators that he was so concerned about protecting his notes of the meeting that he personally took them from his White House office to his new office at the Justice Department on the day he was sworn in as attorney general, Feb. 3, 2005. The document, enclosed in two envelopes, was the only one he took with him from the White House. The outer envelope was marked “AG — Eyes Only — Top Secret.”
Investigators concluded that Mr. Gonzales took the document home with him in his briefcase that night in violation of security procedures. The document remained at his home in Vienna, Va., for an indeterminate amount of time, the inspector general said. He later took the document back to the Justice Department and kept it in his personal safe in his office, rather than in a secure approved site, the inspector general said.
The inspector general found that Mr. Gonzales had also mishandled 17 other highly classified documents by storing them in his personal office safe, which could be opened by aides who were not authorized to see them.
In response to the report, a lawyer for Mr. Gonzales, George J. Terwilliger III, said Mr. Gonzales acknowledged responsibility for not properly securing the materials but “categorically denies that he handled such materials with conscious disregard” for the proper procedures.

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