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Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said yesterday that “the attorney general stands by his testimony.”

“We find Chairman Rockefeller’s statements about his lack of familiarity with this issue puzzling since the chairman’s committee has been conducting oversight on this very specific issue,” Mr. Roehrkasse said.

Judiciary Committee members expressed outrage about Mr. Gonzales‘ shifting answers on the specific reason for going to Mr. Ashcroft’s bedside.

Mr. Comey suggested in May testimony that the issue under discussion was the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP), a domestic surveillance operation of the National Security Agency. Mr. Gonzales, however, said the TSP was not under discussion.

“The disagreement that occurred and the reason for the visit to the hospital, senator, was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the Terrorist Surveillance Program that the president announced to the American people,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Mr. Gonzales told Congress in February 2006 that no disagreement within the Justice Department had arisen over the TSP, but last month said in a press conference that Mr. Comey’s testimony was related to the TSP. Mr. Gonzales yesterday said he had misspoken last month, and retracted that statement.

After that, an exasperated Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, exclaimed, “You’re not being straightforward with this committee.”