FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday was supposed to focus on problems with the bureau's use of national security letters, but amid questioning over the now-infamous John Ashcroft hospital visit, Mueller made a statement that seemed to directly contradict testimony Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave when he sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee just two days before.
Gonzales claimed that the intelligence program he and former White House chief of staff Andy Card had been so desperate to get Ashcroft to sign off on was not the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program that was revealed in 2005. Gonzales' statement prompted Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to ask incredulously, "Do you expect us to believe that?"
And then Thursday, under questioning by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, Mueller, who declined to speak specifically about the events surrounding the hospital visit, testified that the issue in question that night was the NSA warrantless wiretapping program.
Meanwhile, a group of Senate Democrats who were as yet unaware of Mueller's testimony asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to look into the veracity of Gonzales' statement. Notably, Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was not part of the group; instead, Leahy and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., have opted to give Gonzales until next week to revise his testimony.
The New York Times reports today that the White House is standing by Gonzales, accusing the Democratic Congress of being "out of control," and that the Justice Department is now saying that the program Gonzales was referring to was a program to intercept international calls only.
House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote Mueller yesterday formally requesting Mueller's notes on the Ashcroft hospital visit.