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The Gonzo-deathclock resumed ticking last night after the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed that months before embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Congress in 2005 that "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" regarding the use of National Security Letters, he had been informed of several civil liberties abuses committed by the FBI using NSLs. Gonzales and other administration officials went even further, telling Congress that that no abuses of the USA Patriot Act had ever occurred. This, too, documents obtained by the EFF through FOIA prove, was untrue. (to see the full documents, go here.) Unauthorized surveillance, illegal searches, wiretapping the wrong people, collecting data the feds never asked for -- Gonzales had been told about it all. Yet in testimony designed to persuade Congress to re-authorize the Patriot Act, Gonzales described a smoothly running counter-terror machine that had exercised exquisite care not to infringe upon citizens' rights. The AG even feigned surprise when the Justice Department's inspector general this March released a damning report about widespread NSL violations at the FBI:

"The laws authorizing NSLs, as well as specific rules set down by the FBI and by me, established strict policies for how they would be issued and carried out....

I was upset when I learned this, as was Director Mueller.  To say that I am concerned about what has been revealed in this report would be an enormous understatement.

Failure to adequately protect information privacy is a failure to do our jobs. And although I believe the kinds of errors we saw here were due to questionable judgment or lack or attention, not intentional wrongdoing, I want to be very clear: there is no excuse for the mistakes that have been made, and we are going to make things right as quickly as possible.

I have told the Director that I will not accept the problems identified in the report, and I will not be satisfied until procedures and policies that should have been followed are being followed, to the letter."

Read the full speech here.

DOJ spinmeisters are already trying to smooth things over, claiming that it was unclear whether Gonzales had actually read the reports about legal violations and civil liberties abuses. All the abuses reported to Gonzales were, however, grave enough to also be submitted to an independent intelligence oversight board designed to safeguard civil liberties. A story today in the Washington Post quoted DOJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse as saying that just because a violation is reported to the oversight board "does not mean that a USA Patriot violation exists or that an individual's civil liberties have been abused."

But Caroline Fredrickson, the Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office condemned Gonzales' actions today in a statement:

"Congress has been hoodwinked by the Attorney General and it's time for consequences.  From the US Attorney scandal to warrantless wiretapping, this administration has misled the American people time and again.  We know now that Mr. Gonzales provided false testimony in order to build a case for reauthorization of the Patriot Act.  It is now apparent that Congress and the public simply cannot afford to take anything this administration says about the war on terror at face value.

No government should have these broad powers in the first place and it has become painfully obvious that our government cannot be trusted to police itself.  This administration seems to think that the end justifies the means and when it comes to the means, it's anything goes.  Without Mr. Gonzales' false testimony, the Patriot Act may not have been authorized in its current form.  Now, more than ever, is the time to reopen and re-examine the Patriot Act."

Congress may also decide it's time to re-examine the possibility that Gonzales shut down a DOJ probe into the administration's NSA warrantless wiretapping program because he knew it would target his actions as former White House counsel. Murray Waas of the National Journal first reported the story here.

As expected, Democratic lawmakers are outraged. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York), the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, quickly called for Gonzales' resignation, along with the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales' statements to Congress and whether the AG and other officials broke the law with the NSA wiretapping program.

"Attorney General Gonzales has shown an apparent reckless disregard for the rule of law and a fundamental lack of respect for the oversight responsibilities of Congress," Nadler said. "The man entrusted with enforcing our nation's laws must also abide by them, and Mr. Gonzales has apparently failed in that duty. Providing false, misleading or inaccurate statements to Congress is a serious crime, and the man who may have committed those acts cannot be trusted to investigate himself."

A former Alaska lawmaker was convicted Monday of taking thousands of dollars from a corrections company consultant in exchange for his help in the Legislature.

"I'm devastated," former state Rep. Tom Anderson said after the federal jury announced its bribery verdict.

Anderson, 39, was accused of conspiring to take money he thought was coming from a private prison firm, Cornell Industries Inc.

The money was supplied by the FBI through an informant working for Cornell who secretly recorded his conversations with Anderson and a coconspirator, former municipal lobbyist Bill Bobrick.

Anderson was one of four current or former state lawmakers facing federal bribery indictments. The other three face trial this fall for charges related to Anchorage-based oil field services company VECO Corp.

"I think the prosecution has criminalized being a legislator over the last year," Anderson said. "I think I fell victim to that."

Minutes after Anderson's conviction, Gov. Sarah Palin signed into law an ethics reform package for state officials was signed into law.

Palin said the law will help re-establish the public's trust, noting Anderson's case revealed a broader problem with public officials.

"I believe it could be a precursor for what's to come, and it's unfortunate," she said.

Anderson's family, including his wife, state Sen. Lesil McGuire, were not present for the verdict.

Anderson said they couldn't get to the downtown Anchorage courthouse in time after it was announced the jury had reached a verdict.

Judge John Sedwick ordered Anderson to surrender his passport and scheduled sentencing for Oct. 2.

Anderson was arrested Dec. 7 and charged with seven felonies, including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and interfering with commerce, a charge connected to a demand for payments. He faces a maximum penalty of 115 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine.

Department of Justice officials in Washington said Anderson was held accountable for his crimes.

Anderson "corrupted his elected office when he took official actions in exchange for bribery payments," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said. "His illegal conduct impaired the integrity of the oath he took to represent citizens of the state of Alaska."

Bobrick pleaded guilty in May to bribing Anderson. He agreed to testify against Anderson in exchange for prosecutors' request for lenience at sentencing.

Anderson was accused of accepting nearly $26,000 he thought was coming from Cornell through Frank Prewitt, a former corrections department commissioner and an FBI informant was a $150,000-per-year consultant for Cornell.

The Houston-based company operated halfway houses in Alaska and hoped to build a private prison and a juvenile psychiatric treatment center in Alaska.

The defense argued that Anderson backed Cornell without being on the take and that Prewitt wore a wire to bag a legislator and deflect investigators from his legal problems.

Prosecutors contend Bobrick and Anderson trolled for cash in conversations with Prewitt, using a phony Web-based newsletter as a front for Cornell to funnel payments to Anderson.

Anderson, finishing his first term as a Republican legislator from east Anchorage, was strapped for cash, prosecutors said, as he romanced McGuire, who was then a state representative.

He owed child support payments and was looking for a payoff of about $3,000 per month when the Legislature was not in session.


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