Friday, August 31, 2007

Justice IG Looking at Gonzales

Gonzales knew that the water was heating up in his pan at the Justice Department.

He had to jump out before it became too late.

The Justice Department's inspector general indicated yesterday that he is investigating whether departing Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales gave false or misleading testimony to Congress, including whether he lied under oath about warrantless surveillance and the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The disclosure by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine in a letter to Congress signals an expansion of the department's internal investigations into Gonzales's troubled tenure, probes that were not previously known to be focused so sharply on the attorney general and his testimony.

Fine's office has also separately expanded a probe into whether senior Gonzales aides improperly considered partisan affiliations when reviewing applicants for nonpolitical career positions. As part of that inquiry, Fine sent hundreds of questionnaires in the past week to former Justice Department job applicants. ...

The scope and pace of the investigations suggest that public attention on Gonzales will probably continue long after he leaves his job on Sept. 17. But officials declined yesterday to say whether Fine's expanding investigations played a role in the attorney general's resignation. ...

Fine, in a letter yesterday to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), said his office "has ongoing investigations" related to Gonzales's testimony on several key issues, including the prosecutor firings and allegations of improper hiring practices, the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program, the FBI's use of national security letters, and Gonzales's characterizations of his conversation with an aide before a House hearing. ...

Fine has the authority to refer cases for criminal prosecution, including on perjury or obstruction-of-justice charges, if warranted. He and H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, can also recommend internal disciplinary action for violations of department rules and guidelines, although many Gonzales aides involved in the controversial actions have left the government.

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