Yesterday, it was reveled that then White House General Counsel, Alberto Gonzales, informed White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, about the newly created inquiry into the Plame/CIA leak a full 12 hours before informing the rest of the staff that all documents must be retained. Some are likening this to the 18 minute gap on tapes turned over by Nixon.
Now, you may say, "but Dingo, what is the big deal?" Well, in legal matters, that 12 hours is a huge deal. As we have recently seen from the Supreme Court Ruling on the Anderson Accounting case, that 12 hours could play a determining role in the investigation.
When the Justice Department opens an investigation into any matter, once they have notified the entity that they are investigating, that entity must cease and desist destruction of any and all documents related to that issue. Notification changes the deletion of an e-mail from an innocent click of the mouse to a federal crime. The fact that Gonzales gave Andrew Card a 12 hour heads up on the pending notification may have allowed important documents to be destroyed before the staff was 'officially' notified that they had to retain all.
It may just be an innocent "I'll do it in the morning" on Gonzales's part, put he should have never told Andrew Card that the next morning would bring an order to hold all material. It only adds to the credibility problems the White House is already besieged with.
Aide Got Early Word on CIA Leak Inquiry
By Leslie Hoffecker, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., was notified about 12 hours before the rest of the White House staff that the Justice Department had begun an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer's name, Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales said Sunday.
It was not known whether Card informed any other White House staff members before they were formally told of the investigation the next morning. The White House has repeatedly said it will have no comment on the specifics of the continuing investigation.
Gonzales also said he was among the current and former White House officials who had testified before a federal grand jury investigating whether any laws were broken when the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent and the wife of a prominent administration critic, was disclosed in July 2003.
Gonzales, who was White House counsel before being named attorney general this year, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the Justice Department call announcing the investigation came about 8 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003.
He said he asked whether the staff should be notified immediately, given that most of them had gone home, or whether it could wait until morning.
"And we were advised, 'Go ahead and notify the staff early in the morning. That would be OK.' " he said.
But he did tell one person in the White House that evening.
"I told the chief of staff," he said. "And then immediately the next morning, I told the president. And shortly thereafter, there was a notification sent out to all the members of the White House staff."
Appearing on the same program, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said that Gonzales' decision to notify only Card immediately did not reflect "the soundest in judgments."
"The real question now is, who did the chief of staff speak to?" Biden asked. "Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call Karl Rove? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call anybody else? Ordinarily, you would think that he would immediately send out an e-mail to every member of the staff."