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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Report Faults Handling of Wiretap Notes

Ph2008090102776

Former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales improperly handled classified information about some of the government's most sensitive national security programs, but authorities will not recommend that he face criminal sanctions, according to officials familiar with an investigative report to be released today.

The Justice Department's inspector general has concluded that Gonzales should have taken precautions to safeguard the materials, related to the government's warrantless wiretapping program and other eavesdropping initiatives, when he became the nation's top law enforcement official more than three years ago. Investigators did not find any evidence that the information had been shared with or accessed by people who lacked the proper clearance to review it.

At issue are notes that Gonzales took during a March 2004 meeting between President Bush and congressional leaders in the White House Situation Room, as a program that allowed authorities to secretly monitor communications for evidence of terrorist plots was set to expire.

When Gonzales, then White House counsel, moved to become the Justice Department's top official in early 2005, he failed to secure the notes in a sensitive compartmentalized facility, the inspector general has concluded. Gonzales kept the notes in a safe in his office and at times took them to and from work in a briefcase -- practices that violated protocols for the handling of classified materials, according to people familiar with the report. [Mark Godsey]

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