“Data Mining” != “Surveillance?

“DATA MINING” != “SURVEILLANCE”?….What was the big dispute about on March 10, 2004, when Alberto Gonzales paid a hospital visit to a doped-up John Ashcroft to try to persuade him to approve a controversial NSA program? Gonzales says the dispute wasn’t over the NSA’s “terrorist surveillance program,” and today the New York Times takes a stab at explaining how he could say such a thing in the face of massive evidence to the contrary:

A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.

….The N.S.A.’s data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.

….If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.

Give me a break. Are these guys serious?