SNOOPGATE: Top Justice Man Said No
A top Justice Department official objected in 2004
to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program
and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality
and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal
debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension
of the secret program.
The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most
senior aides – Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales,
then White House counsel and now attorney general – to make an emergency visit
to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and
try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was
hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.
The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr.
Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general
in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying
central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures
set up to oversee it.
James B. Comey is the guy who appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to
find out who leaked Valerie Plame's name. They're two of the good guys over
at Justice, a department that has now been taken over by Bush boys and girls
at the top, with the rank and file grunts still churning away on what is right
and wrong down at the bottom.
Under President Bush, nothing is sacred, especially the rule of
law, which is supposed to be the guiding principle over at Justice. Many didn't
think we could do any worse than John Ashcroft. But under Alberto Gonzales,
we've got a Bush “general” who is willing to bend, contort and even
break the law so that Bush & Co. can put into action programs that would
make even Haldeman blush.
… Had Bush issued his Executive Order
on September 12, 2001, as a temporary measure – pending his seeking Congress
approval – those circumstances might have supported his call.
Or, had a particularly serious threat of attack compelled
Bush to authorize warrantless wiretapping in a particular investigation, before
he had time to go to Congress, that too might have been justifiable.
But several years have passed since the broad 2002
Executive Order, and in all that time, Bush has refused to seek legal authority
for his action. Yet he can hardly miss the fact that Congress has clearly
set rules for presidents in the very situation in which he insists on defying
Bush has given one legal explanation for his actions
which borders on the laughable: He claims that implicit in Congress' authorization
of his use of force against the Taliban in Afghanistan, following the 9/11
attack, was an exemption from FISA.
No sane member of Congress believes that the
Authorization of Military Force provided such an authorization. No first year
law student would mistakenly make such a claim. It is not merely a stretch;
it is ludicrous. … …
W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon: Both Wiretapped Illegally, and Impeachably;
Both Claimed That a President May Violate Congress' Laws to Protect National
by JOHN DEAN (emphasis added)