[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] told the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Tuesday that President Bush personally put an end to an internal Justice Department investigation into the role DOJ lawyers played in designing the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. During a Department of Justice oversight hearing [committee materials], committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) asked Gonzales why officials from the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility [official website] could not obtain necessary security clearances from the NSA. Gonzales told the panel that "the president of the United States makes the decision." DOJ officials said in May that the internal investigation had been dropped [JURIST reports] after OPR was "unable to make meaningful progress" due to having been "denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program."
The internal probe was launched in February [OPR letter, PDF] to "investigate the Department of Justice's role in authorizing, approving and auditing certain surveillance activities of the National Security Agency, and whether such activities are permissible under existing law." In January, the DOJ's usual internal investigations arm, the Office of the Inspector-General [official website], passed up the opportunity to investigate the Department's role in the spying scandal itself, claiming it had no jurisdiction [JURIST report]. The domestic surveillance program, where the NSA uses warrantless wiretaps to spy on international communications by US residents with known links to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, first came to light in December 2005. AP has more.