Selective 'Leaks' from the Bush Administration

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr talks about selective leaking by the Bush administration, and what it tells us.

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DANIEL SCHORR: In an investigation of a major leak, the first question asked is who benefited.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: In the case of a security breach that enabled the New York Times yesterday to report, in some detail, on the so-called data-mining program, the leading beneficiary is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In retrospect, Gonzales' evasions and dissimulations before the Senate Judiciary Committee can be explained, at least in part, as an effort to keep attention focused on the publicly known NSA eavesdropping program while protecting the secret data-mining program.

In a typical evasion, Gonzales testified in February of last year that there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed, that is the eavesdropping program - monitoring telephone traffic between the United States and foreign countries in a search for terrorists. Not publicly confirmed is a controversial hi-tech program scooping up millions of phone calls and e-mail residues of Americans as well as foreigners and preserving them on a database to be mined as desired. Intelligence agencies have spent millions since 9/11 on computer programs that could search financial and other data. One such program called Total Information Awareness started in the year 2002 and was managed in the Pentagon by retired Admiral John Poindexter, who had been President Reagan's national security advisor during the Iran-Contra Affair.

It now appears that the struggle in the Justice Department that led to several threatened resignations was not about surveillance, which the administration agree to have monitored our secret intelligence courts, but about the data-mining program, whose existence, the administration to this day has refused to confirm. The disclosure of the program casts a new light on the now famous hospital room encounter in which then Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to sign a clearance for a program which it now appears was not the eavesdropping program but the data-mining program.

I don't know who opened up to The New York Times on this subject. But that person did the attorney general a big favor.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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