2004 Ashcroft N. S. A. drama

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2004 Ashcroft N. S. A. drama

Postby SDR » Thu May 17, 2007 12:46 am

NY Times, May 16, 2007

May 16, 2007
Bush Intervened in Dispute Over N.S.A. Eavesdropping

By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, May 15 — President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program after Attorney General John Ashcroft, Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. and other senior Justice Department aides all threatened to resign, a former deputy attorney general testified Tuesday.

Mr. Bush quelled the revolt over the program’s legality by allowing it to continue without Justice Department approval, also directing department officials to take the necessary steps to bring it into compliance with the law, according to Congressional testimony by the former deputy attorney general, James B. Comey.

Although a conflict over the program had been disclosed in The New York Times, Mr. Comey provided a fuller account of the 48-hour drama, including, for the first time, Mr. Bush’s role, the threatened resignations and a race as Mr. Comey hurried to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital sickbed to intercept White House officials, who were pushing for approval of the N.S.A. program.

Describing the events as “the most difficult of my professional career,” Mr. Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its inquiry into the dismissal of federal prosecutors and the role of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Several lawmakers wanted to examine Mr. Gonzales’s actions in the N.S.A. matter, when he was White House counsel, and cited them to buttress their case that he should resign.

Mr. Comey, the former No. 2 official in the Justice Department, said the crisis began when he refused to sign a presidential order reauthorizing the program, which allowed monitoring of international telephone calls and e-mail of people inside the United States who were suspected of having terrorist ties. He said he made his decision after the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, based on an extensive review, concluded that the program did not comply with the law. At the time, Mr. Comey was acting attorney general because Mr. Ashcroft had been hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery.

Mr. Comey would not describe the rationale for his refusal to approve the eavesdropping program, citing its classified nature. The N.S.A. program, which began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and did not require court approval to listen in on the communications of Americans and others, provoked an outcry in Congress when it was disclosed in December 2005.

Mr. Comey said that on the evening of March 10, 2004, Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., then Mr. Bush’s chief of staff, tried to bypass him by secretly visiting Mr. Ashcroft. Mr. Ashcroft was extremely ill and disoriented, Mr. Comey said, and his wife had forbidden any visitors.

Mr. Comey said that when a top aide to Mr. Ashcroft alerted him about the pending visit, he ordered his driver to rush him to George Washington University Hospital with emergency lights flashing and a siren blaring, to intercept the pair. They were seeking his signature because authority for the program was to expire the next day.

Mr. Comey said he phoned Mr. Mueller, who agreed to meet him at the hospital. Once there, Mr. Comey said he “literally ran up the stairs.” At his request, Mr. Mueller ordered the F.B.I. agents on Mr. Ashcroft’s security detail not to evict Mr. Comey from the room if Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card objected to his presence.

Mr. Comey said he arrived first in the darkened room, in time to brief Mr. Ashcroft, who he said seemed barely conscious. Before Mr. Ashcroft became ill, Mr. Comey said the two men had talked and agreed that the program should not be renewed.

When the White House officials appeared minutes later, Mr. Gonzales began to explain to Mr. Ashcroft why they were there. Mr. Comey said Mr. Ashcroft rose weakly from his hospital bed, but in strong and unequivocal terms, refused to approve the eavesdropping program.

“I was angry,” Mr. Comey told the committee. “ I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me. I thought he had conducted himself in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before, but still I thought it was improper.”

Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card quickly departed, but Mr. Comey said he soon got an angry phone call from Mr. Card, demanding that he come to the White House. Mr. Comey said he replied: “After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness, and I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States.”

Mr. Comey said he reached Theodore B. Olson, the solicitor general, at a dinner party. At the White House session, which included Mr. Olson, Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Comey and Mr. Card, the four officials discussed the impasse. Mr. Comey knew that other top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, wanted to continue the program.

Mr. Card expressed concern about mass resignations at the Justice Department, Mr. Comey said. He told the Senate panel that he prepared a letter of resignation and that David Ayres, Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff, asked him to delay delivering it so that Mr. Ashcroft could join him. Mr. Comey said Mr. Mueller was also prepared to quit.

The next morning, March 11, Mr. Comey went to the White House for a terrorism briefing. Afterward, he said Mr. Bush took him aside for a private 15-minute meeting in the president’s study, which Mr. Comey described as a “full exchange.”

At Mr. Comey’s urging, Mr. Bush also met with Mr. Mueller, who emerged to inform Mr. Comey that the president had authorized the changes in the program sought by the Justice Department.

“We had the president’s direction to do what we believed, what the Justice Department believed, was necessary to put this on a footing where we could certify to its legality,” Mr. Comey said. “And so we set out to do that and we did that.”

Mr. Comey said he signed the reauthorization in “two or three weeks.” It was unclear from his testimony what authority existed for the program while the changes were being made. Mr. Comey said he shelved his resignation plans that day when terrorists set off bombs on commuter trains in Madrid.

Mr. Comey left the Justice Department in August 2006, saying publicly that he had never intended to serve through the end of Mr. Bush’s second term. Privately, he has told friends that he grew weary of what he felt was increasing White House influence on the agency.

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, deflected questions about Mr. Comey’s testimony, but defended the N.S.A. program. Mr. Snow also noted that the Justice Department placed the program under the supervision of a special intelligence court earlier this year, which department officials said placed the program on an even firmer legal footing.

“Jim Comey can talk about whatever reservations he may have had, but the fact is that there were strong protections in there,” Mr. Snow said. “This is a program that saved lives, that is vital for national security, and furthermore has been reformed in a bipartisan way that is in keeping with everybody.”

Spokesmen for Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Mueller, and the Justice Department declined to comment. Mr. Card did not respond to a reporter’s inquiries.
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Postby Kevin » Thu May 17, 2007 1:12 am

Curiouser and curiouser...
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There is more to the story than we are being told...

Postby Ed Ziomek » Sat May 26, 2007 12:55 am

This subject is much more important than we will ever know.

James Comy is not your ordinary Federal Attorney. He spearheaded the investigation of the insider trading questions of the "domestic diva". Imagine you are a fairly young appointed attorney, and you are doing a sincere job of investigating a Democratic-fund-raiser celebrity, and you get a call from the White House saying..."This is a wonderful idea, we will send 30 FBI agents over to help you out, ...and oh, we have wiretaps via the Patriot Act, and oh, we have intercepts via NSA anti-terror statutes..."

Less and less I believe Comy thought "They are using my name and my efforts to justify shady illegal methods in this investigation, for which I could go to prison over, NOT THEM!"

And he objected, and they "promoted him" off the case, which ended up convicting that person "for lieing in the investigation of a crime, which wasn't committed!"

And this same crew was only too willing to use Ashcroft's name and signature for their own further dirty dealing. And Ashcroft allegedly balked.

But guess what... Gonzalez is still in office. Why? Because he keeps the heat off Cheney.

The big news is the death of the checks and balances, the independent judiciary from the executive and the legislative.

We are watching the collapse of the American system of checks and balances, - almost entirely, from the Supreme Court, to the Federal Appeals Court, to the State Courts, to Civil and Criminal Courts, to Family Court, to Traffic Court, it is all "for sale". The ordinary citizen cannot afford to buy the lawyer to defend himself anymore. It is utter chaos and corruption, filthy top to filthy bottom.

I think it has been this way throughout history...governments rise to a level of disfunction, greed, corruption and political domination by the wealthy and brutal...then that culture collapses.

There are no checks and balances anymore.
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Very serious, may go nowhere...

Postby Ed Ziomek » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:27 pm

Lucky for the administration, there is a debacle war going on.

This "spy gate" is the Bush's Watergate, in my opinion, but will anyone care enough to change it?

"Ashcroft: Officials fought over snooping"
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070622/ap_ ... esdropping

The White House made no move to comply.

"It's important for Congress to understand that the information the committee is requesting is highly classified and not information we can make available," said Bush spokesman Tony Fratto.

"Also important is for Congress to respect our need to ensure that internal executive branch deliberations are confidential."

I say: Confidential, certainly, to a select group of bipartisan review members, not just senior members of the Executive Branch, who have no functioning oversight.

In my ignorant viewpoint, in my dumb taxi-theory perceptions, the targets of the surveillance and sabotage campaigns were most likely political opponents of the ruling party, including one of the most major fundraisers of the Clinton campaign.

2nd blockbuster topic...Seymour Hersch, as I heard today on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman

Archived example...
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/rele ... ersh.shtml

"Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh spills the secrets of the Iraq quagmire and the war on terror"

"BERKELEY – The Iraq war is not winnable, a secret U.S. military unit has been "disappearing" people since December 2001, and America has no idea how irreparably its torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison has damaged its image in the Middle East. These were just a few of the grim pronouncements made by Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Seymour "Sy" Hersh to KQED host Michael Krasny before a Berkeley audience on Friday night (Oct. 8). "

So we have death squads, that can kill you and me and all of us. Great!
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Postby SDR » Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:06 am

Thanks for the interesting articles. I am just beginning to read Mr Hersh's latest New Yorker piece. . .

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007 ... fact_hersh

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Bad news happens in threes....

Postby Ed Ziomek » Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:53 am

Rove is gone, and under subpoena, isn't that right?

Gonzalez is gone, and he too is under the scrutiny over the US Attorney firings and smearings.

Humpty Dumpty Cheney will not drink the kool-aid, and his heart is just...f-f-fine!

Are there 'photos'? This story is not over, in fact it is just beginning. What is next, King Richard? Or who is next?
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