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Gonzales' testimony before Senate panel probed

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  • Justice Department's inspector general investigating attorney general's testimony
  • Alberto Gonzales testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee questioned
  • Some of U.S. attorney firings alleged to be for political reasons
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department inspector general said Thursday he is looking into whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have intentionally misled Congress in sworn testimony.

President Bush and Alberto Gonzales at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in May.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D- Vermont, Inspector General Glenn Fine said the Gonzales probe is included in his ongoing investigation into the firings of several U.S. attorneys.

In a letter dated August 16, Leahy asked Fine to investigate Gonzales' July 24 testimony.

"You identified five issues and asked that we investigate whether the statements made by the attorney general were intentionally false, misleading, or inappropriate," Fine's letter to Leahy said.

"The OIG (Office of Inspector General) has ongoing investigations that relate to most of the subjects you addressed by the attorney general's testimony that you identified," Fine said.

The inspector general told Leahy the ongoing probe also includes "a review relating to the terrorist surveillance program, as well as a follow up review of the use of national security letters." Those secret letters are used by federal agents to seek information in spy and terrorism investigations without court orders.

Fine said he is also continuing his investigation into allegations "regarding the removal of certain United States attorneys and improper hiring practices."

Leahy said he was satisfied with Fine's response.

"The current attorney general is leaving, but these questions remain. It is appropriate that the inspector general will examine whether the attorney general was honest with this and other congressional committees about these crucial issues," Leahy said.

Gonzales this week announced he is stepping down effective September 17. President Bush said he accepted the resignation with reluctance.

Many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle had called on Gonzales to quit after the firing of several U.S. attorneys in 2006.

In the probe into the U.S. attorney firings, the Senate Judiciary Committee looked into whether the administration may have fired some or all of the U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

In his testimony before the committee on multiple occasions, Gonzales repeatedly seemed to contradict himself, other members of his department or Justice Department documents.

Gonzales also was at the center of a dispute over the controversial no-warrant eavesdropping program authorized by Bush. He testified there was no dissent among administration officials over the program, but later sent a letter to Senate leaders acknowledging he "may have created confusion" in his testimony. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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