Thursday, June 7, 2007

Comey: Cheney kiboshed career of Justice official who opposed domestic spying

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s written responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee are as dramatic and revealing as his testimony before the committee. Via his written responses, the Washington Post reports on a meeting that took place the day before at the White House:

"Mr. Comey has confirmed what we suspected for a while -- that White House hands guided Justice Department business," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "The vice president's fingerprints are all over the effort to strong-arm Justice on the NSA program, and the obvious next question is: Exactly what role did the president play?"(emphasis added)

According to Comey, the hospital visit was preceded by a March 9, 2004, meeting at the White House on the Justice Department objections. It was attended by Cheney; Gonzales; Card; Cheney's counsel then, David S. Addington; and others, Comey said.

Comey also named eight Justice Department officials who were prepared to quit if the White House had not backed down, including FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, current U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of Alexandria and Jack Goldsmith, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel and led an internal legal review of the surveillance program.

Comey said that the review "focused on current operations during late 2003 and early 2004, and the legal basis for the program." He declined to answer detailed questions about the program or the review, citing restrictions on classified information.

Bush confirmed the existence of the surveillance effort after news reports in December 2005, saying it was authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and was vital to protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. The program has since been put under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees clandestine eavesdropping in the United States.

What exactly were they doing? Ashcroft is no civil libertarian – so what line did they cross and how far over it did they go? I shudder to think.

[Crossposted from WTWC]

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