Wed, May 16, 2007 3:45pm EST
ABC and CBS evening news shows did not cover Comey's testimony about wiretapping power struggle
Of the three national nightly news broadcasts, only NBC's Nightly News reported on former deputy attorney general James B. Comey's May 15 congressional testimony regarding what Nightly News anchor Brian Williams called a "rare glimpse of a high-level, late-night power struggle" among the Justice Department, the FBI, and the White House over the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic wiretapping program. As NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reported, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that current Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who was then White House counsel, and Andrew Card, then-White House chief of staff, attempted to pressure then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, "at his [hospital] bedside ... to approve an extension of the secret NSA warrantless eavesdropping program over strong Justice Department objections even though Ashcroft was seriously ill," and did not have power as the attorney general during his recovery from surgery. [...]
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Can You Even Imagine How Bad it Must Have Been?
I want to put yesterday's incredible Comey testimony in some context, to demonstrate just how otherworldly this story is -- and what an extraordinary tale it tells about the nature of the officials who are running our government.
In March 2004, the NSA surveillance program had been operational for two-and-a-half years. According to the President and NSA, it had produced extraordinarily valuable intelligence against potential terrorist actions. (At the very least, it's fair to assume that the folks in DOJ understood this to be the case.) The NSA and the phone companies had been going full-steam ahead on the program, even though on its face it would be a crime to do so under FISA. See 18 U.S.C. 1809. Presumably they did so only because OLC had written one or more legal opinions concluding that the President had Article II authority to disregard the statute in wartime -- a legal theory not only critical to the operation of the program, but also at the very heart of the Vice President's passionately held philosophy of Executive prerogatives.
Jack Goldsmith was confirmed to be head of OLC in October 2003. He was a loyal Republican and supporter of the President. And yet almost as soon as he took office, he began reviewing much of John Yoo's handiwork, and found it lacking. Barely two months into his new job, for instance, Goldsmith called the Pentagon and told them that they must immediately cease relying on the critical Yoo Opinion that formed the basis for the Department of Defense's absuive interrogation policies in Iraq and elsewhere. (I've reviewed this fascinating story in detail here.) [...]