In all the focus on the minutia of the Plame leak, and with a possible Gonzalez Supreme Court nomination, I wanted to remind everyone of this Harkin moment in the Congressional Record (after the flip).
Could Alberto Gonzalez be a subject in the cover-up portion of the Plame investigation???
In short, after Attorney General John Ashcroft delayed mounting any investigation into the Plame leak, he then delayed informing the White House of the investigation (in order to trigger their duty to preserve documents). Once Ashcroft did notify the White House, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez asked if he could wait until the next day to send out the official notice to White House staff to preserve documents relevant to the investigation. Even though the request was extraordinary, and outside any normal prosecutorial procedures, Ashcroft obliged. Harkin laid it all out way back in October 2003:
In late July, the FBI notified Senator Schumer that they had done an inquiry into the CIA.
Then it appears nothing happened for 2 months.
On September 23, the Attorney General says he and CIA Director Tenet sent a memo to the FBI requesting an investigation.
On September 26, the Department of Justice officially launches its investigation.
Interestingly, it took 4 days after that "official" launch for the Justice Department to call White House Counsel Gonzales and notify him of the official investigation. Gonzalez then asked for an extra day before the Justice Department gave the White House the official notice, which means all documents and records must be preserved.
A recent letter was sent to the President from Senators Daschle, Schumer, Levin, and Biden which also expresses concern about this break from regular procedure.
Every former prosecutor with whom we have spoken has said that the first step in such an investigation would be to ensure all potentially relevant evidence is preserved, yet the Justice Department waited four days before making a formal request for documents.
Interestingly, the letter goes on:
When the Justice Department finally asked the White House to order employees to preserve documents, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales asked for permission to delay transmitting the order to preserve evidence until morning. The request for a delay was granted. Again, every former prosecutor with whom we have spoken has said that such a delay is a significant departure from standard practice.
That is what has been happening--departure from standard practice.
I am also troubled that the White House Counsel's Office is serving as "gatekeeper'" for all the documents the Justice Department has requested from the White House. Mr. Gonzales' office said he would not rule out seeking to withhold documents under a claim of executive privilege or national security.
What kind of a zoo is this outfit?
Mr. Gonzales says he can withhold these documents from this investigation on the basis of national security.
Wait a minute. It is our national security that has been breached by this leak. Now we are going to have an invocation of protecting national security to protect who leaked it, I guess.
I believe this matter could have been resolved very quickly. President Bush could have called his senior staff members into the Oval Office and asked them one by one if they were involved. He could have them sign a document stating they were not involved in this leak. He could have each of them sign a release to any reporter to release anything they have ever said to a reporter thereby exempting the reporters.
There has been coverup after coverup after coverup on this CIA leak, and it is not going to go away. People of America will demand that we get to the bottom of it.