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Gonzales calls it confusion; Specter calls it 'misleading'

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  • NEW: Ranking Republican on Gonzales: "He did not tell the whole truth"
  • NEW: Specter says Gonzales shouldn't play "cat-and-mouse" with Senate
  • Gonzales says he didn't mean to mislead senators
  • Leahy declines Gonzales' invitation for private briefing
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said he's not satisfied with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' attempt to clarify his testimony about no-warrant surveillance.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded his testimony "may have created confusion."

"He did not tell the whole truth," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said Wednesday.

Earlier the same day, Gonzales sent a letter to Senate leaders saying he "may have created confusion" in his testimony about a program that allows domestic surveillance without a warrant. He had testified that the program had caused no dissent in the administration.

FBI Director Robert Mueller's statements to the committee later raised questions about the attorney general's testimony.

Specter did not accept the clarification. He disagreed that the attorney general had "tried to provide frank answers," and chastised Gonzales' apology for causing confusion.

"It's more than confusion, it's misleading," Specter said. "He did not tell the whole truth."

In a two-page letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales defended his testimony while conceding he was not clear when he described highly classified National Security Agency surveillance activities.

"I am deeply concerned with suggestions that my testimony was misleading, and am determined to address any such impression," Gonzales wrote Leahy.

"I recognize that the use of the term 'Terrorist Surveillance Program' and my shorthand reference to the 'program' publicly 'described by the president' may have created confusion, particularly for those who are knowledgeable about the NSA activities authorized in the presidential order described by the D.N.I. [director of national intelligence], and who may be accustomed to thinking of them or referring to them together as a single N.S.A. program," Gonzales wrote.

The distinction of whether there was only one program or whether "other intelligence activities" constituted a separate program from the confirmed terrorist surveillance program is critical.

Gonzales testified the no-warrant eavesdropping program acknowledged by President Bush in December 2005 was not in dispute, but dissent had erupted over "other intelligence activities." He would not discuss what he meant by "other."

On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell sent a letter to the committee explaining that the no-warrant eavesdropping program is the only aspect of N.S.A. surveillance that can be discussed publicly.

Gonzales offered to give Leahy a special briefing but Leahy declined.

The New York Times disclosed the warrantless domestic spying program included computer searches of domestic phone calls and e-mails, and wiretapping of international calls and e-mail messages by terrorism suspects inside the United States.

"The attorney general's legalistic explanation of his misleading testimony under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is not what one should expect from the top law enforcement officer of the United States," Leahy said.

"It is time for full candor to enforce the law and promote justice, rather than word parsing."

Leahy said that Gonzales has until the end of this week to correct and supplement his testimony.

"I hope he will take that opportunity to clarify the many issues on which he appears not to have been forthcoming and to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people the whole truth," Leahy said.

Specter called the hearings a "cat-and-mouse game, and that's not the way the attorney general of the United States ought to treat the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Democrats have called for a special counsel to investigate whether to charge Gonzales with perjury, because of the disputed testimony, and over the firings of U.S. attorneys last year that critics say were politically motivated.

Although he has made it clear that he would like Gonzales to step down, Specter said Wednesday that he doesn't think a perjury investigation is warranted.

In a related development Wednesday, the Bush administration and Democratic congressional leadership struggled to agree on a proposal to broaden the government's ability to eavesdrop on foreign suspects abroad.

The administration is pressing Congress to act before it leaves on its August recess at the end of the week, citing concerns about a heightened terror threat.

McConnell and Congressional Democrats have been exchanging proposals that would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). One of the sticking points involves the interception of communications in which one person is in the United States and the other abroad.

The Democrats want the FISA court -- the special panel that has to approve any wiretaps involving people in the U.S. -- to oversee the eavesdropping and authorize warrants when there is a pattern of calls from a foreign target to the United States.

The administration wants the attorney general to oversee the surveillance. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Alberto Gonzales

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