Gonzales Nixed Inquiry into Own Conduct at DOJ, Democrats Furious
By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor,
(APN) ATLANTA – At least four Members of US Congress and four US Senators today raised concerns about a breaking report
in the National Journal that US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appears to have known he was going to be negatively
implicated in a review at the US Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) when he
advised President Bush regarding the review. The review was later squashed when Bush denied security clearances OPR
needed to investigate Gonzales.
“Your role in advising the President on this question raises... even more serious concerns,” US Rep. John Conyers
(D-MI), Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee, wrote in a letter to Gonzales, dated March 15, 2007, obtained by
Atlanta Progressive News. A second letter obtained by APN was signed by US Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Lynn Woolsey
(D-CA), and John Lewis (D-GA).
US Sens. Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Kennedy (D-MA), and Schumer (D-NY) have requested Gonzales clarify his actions
as well, a spokesperson for Kennedy told Atlanta Progressive News.
“It could be extraordinarily serious. We have the Attorney General here working to block an investigation of himself,”
Jeff Lieberson, Communications Director to US Rep. Maurice Hinchey told Atlanta Progressive News in an interview.
“Either he [Gonzales] told the President he was going to be the subject of this investigation and asked the President to
shut it down, or he didn't tell the President that and he was... leaving out critical parts of the truth and not living
up to his responsibilities as Attorney General,” Hinchey’s spokesman said.
Hinchey’s Office is currently working on a letter to President Bush asking him about what he knew of the OPR
investigation and its implications for Gonzales, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
“It would be like... any member of Congress asking the Ethics Committee to cancel an investigation knowing the
investigation could incriminate them,” one Congressional staffer told APN on condition of anonymity.
According to Congressional testimony on the National Security Administration (NSA) wiretapping, Bush was the one who
personally denied the security clearances to the USDOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) several months ago.
As Atlanta Progressive News reported over a year ago in January 2006, the OPR investigation was going to look into
Gonzales’s professional conduct or misconduct related to the NSA wiretapping program. US Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and
others had requested the USDOJ internal review as well as reviews at other agencies, when the USDOJ replied that the OPR
probe was essentially the best they could do.
(FLASHBACK: Please see “Federal Agencies Play Hot Potato With Wiretap Probe”
Several months later, the OPR notified US Rep. Lofgren that they could not obtain the necessary security clearances to
conduct the investigation.
At the time, Lofgren and others were displeased because the OPR investigation would not have looked into the legality of
the NSA Wiretapping Program, which is what they had requested.
However, what was unclear at the time was that even the OPR’s review could have been problematic for Gonzales as well.
The OPR was going to look into “his misconduct in how he approved the program, implemented it, and how he may have went
outside the line,” Hinchey’s spokesman said.
“These guys who OPR was planning on talking to, were two appointees who vehemently opposed the NSA program and made it
clear to the Attorney General and then-White House Counsel that it was not within the confines of the law,” he said.
“Investigators from [OPR] notified senior aides to Gonzales early last year that the first two people they intended to
interview were Jack Goldsmith, who had been an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, and James A.
Baker, the counsel for Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. Both men had raised questions about the
propriety and legality of various aspects of the eavesdropping program, which was undertaken after September 11 as an
anti-terrorism tool,” the National Journal reported.
The National Journal cites “law enforcement officials” as their confidential sources that Gonzales’s aides proceeded to
inform him of the planned interviews with Goldsmith and Baker.
What happens next is “really going to depend on the Attorney General response to [the letters] and further
investigation. It's a news article with sources unfamiliar to the Committee with very little on the record for anyone,”
the anonymous senior Congressional Staffer told APN.
It was unprecedented for the OPR to have been denied security clearances before, until Bush denied them regarding the
wiretap review. However, another anonymous Congressional Staffer told APN in January 2006 that they were concerned the
Bush Administration would not provide the clearances.
“The decision by the President to shut down the OPR investigation by denying security clearances to key Department
personnel was itself extremely unusual, controversial and, in our view, improper,” Chairman Conyers wrote in his letter
Atlanta Progressive News reported in December 2006 that a separate investigation at the USDOJ is underway. This time,
the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will be looking into how the wiretap program came out and how it had been
carrier out. It’s unclear why the OIG decided to look into the matter shortly after the 2006 Congressional Elections,
several months after the initial request [which had actually been to the OIG and not the OPR] had been denied.
The OIG investigation is underway, a spokesperson told APN, and could not get into details. This separate investigation
by the OIG could still pose further problems for Gonzales.
(FLASHBACK: Please see “Justice Department Reviews Own Role in NSA Wiretapping”
Subsequently, the Bush Administration reversed course on the NSA Wiretapping and decided that indeed the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court could resume its jurisdiction over NSA wiretapping. However, civil liberties
advocates say special modifications to the FISA’s operations, intended to appease Bush, don’t leave much of a victory on
(FLASHBACK: Please see “Bush Retreats on Illegal Domestic Wiretapping”
Gonzales is currently under pressure to resign from several US Senate Democrats and one Senate Republican, for his role
in apparently orchestrating the firing of US Attorneys for political purposes.
Gonzales also apologized recently for misleading Congress in regards to that issue.
US Sen. Feingold last year pointed out additional dishonesty by Gonzales in his Senate Confirmation Hearings. Gonzales
had said the President would never break the law when Feingold asked whether the President had the authority to order
Several Congressional sources tell Atlanta Progressive News it looks like Gonzales’s career as Attorney General is
almost at an end. Gonzales’s Chief of Staff resigned a few days ago. Gonzales was Bush’s private legal counsel before he
become Attorney General of the US.
(FLASHBACK: Please see “Gonzales Lied to Congress over Wiretapping” http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/news/0019.html
“If these reports are true, they raise serious questions about the attorney general’s willingness to place himself and
his actions above the law and above rebuke. In America, no one is above the law. And, no one - certainly not the
attorney general - should interfere with an investigation into whether laws have been broken and the Constitution
subverted,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a press release.
About the author:
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at
This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.