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Support for Attorney General Gonzales slips further

Even among GOP lawmakers on the Hill, concerns mount about the attorney general's truthfulness.

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Seldom have a cabinet official and a Congress been so at odds. After months of bickering over fired US attorneys, congressional subpoenas, and secret eavesdropping, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now has few supporters left on Capitol Hill, even among his fellow Republicans.

Mr. Gonzales's bitterest foes have gone so far as to call for a special counsel to investigate whether he has perjured himself in congressional testimony. Others have begun pushing for his impeachment.

But it remains unlikely that lawmakers alone will oust the attorney general from office. By all accounts Gonzales retains the support of the person who could fire him in a stroke: President Bush.

And the most important recent developments in the case may not involve Gonzales himself. In defending him against charges that he lied to Congress last week, administration officials indirectly may have confirmed that the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping program involves more extensive activities than previously revealed.

"The administration has finally copped to a broader [surveillance] program," wrote Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in a July 31 analysis of recent developments in the case.

Testimony revives Gonzales's woes

The most recent chapter in this long-running saga began with a July 24 appearance by Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators queried him about a 2004 confrontation between administration officials that occurred at the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Perhaps choosing his words with care, Gonzales said the dispute was not about the National Security Agency's (NSA) secret eavesdropping effort, named the terrorist surveillance program.


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