Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bush Co. Told To Come Clean On Spying On Americans

Subpoenas Target White House, Cheney

The Democrats have so far failed to deliver on their pre-midterm election promises of bringing US troops home from Iraq.

Which is perhaps one of the key reasons why they're now going after Bush Co. so hard on the still controversial wiretapping and general Spying On Americans programs, covertly launched by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks.

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday issued subpoenas to Dick Cheney's officer, the Justice Department and the White House. The committee's chairman Patrick J. Leahy said Bush Co.'s refusal to hand over documents as requested was "stonewalling of the worst kind." Obviously not to be confused with "stonewalling of the best kind."

The White House has now invoked "executive privilege", for only the second time, to try and avoid handing over the paper and electronic documents.

Senate Democrats are heading towards a showdown with Bush Co. and it's likely to come within the next three weeks. The deadline to hand over the subpoenaed documents is July 18.

I can already hear the excuses : "Rove ate the papers."

The subpoenas are apparently to access documents that :

...could shed light on the legal basis used by the administration to justify the wiretapping, as well as on disputes within the government over its legality.

In addition, the panel is seeking materials on issues related to the wiretapping, including those concerning the relationship between the Bush administration and several unidentified telecommunications companies that aided the N.S.A. eavesdropping program.

The panel’s action was the most aggressive move yet by lawmakers to investigate the N.S.A. program since the Democrats gained control of Congress this year.

No response yet from Cheney's office, the White House of the Justice Department on whether or not they will co-operate. But Bush's spokesman Tony Snow said it was "unfortunate" that Senate Democrats chose to go for a confrontational approach over this issue.

Well, yeah. Because asking nicely got them absolutely nowhere.

It's hilarious to hear Snow, on behalf of the White House, complaining about politicians acting in a "confrontational" manner. Unlike Vice President Cheney, of course, who is also sweet and mild and is always willing to help judiciaries with their investigations and always says "please" and "thank you" and...oh yeah, "fuck you" and "fuck off."

More on this from the New York Times :

....the White House had largely been able to fend off aggressive oversight of the N.S.A. wiretapping program since it was first disclosed in December 2005. The Republican-controlled Congress held a series of hearings last year, and even considered several legislative proposals to curb the scope of the eavesdropping. But Mr. Cheney repeatedly pressured Republican Congressional leaders to pull back without forcing the administration’s hand.

When the Democrats won the 2006 midterm elections, many political analysts predicted that the N.S.A. program — which a federal judge declared unconstitutional — would be one of the first Bush administration operations to undergo new scrutiny. But in January, administration officials announced that it was placing the program under the legal framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a move it had previously refused to consider.

The wiretapping is just one of several legal issues on which Congress and the administration are squaring off. For example, the White House is under pressure to respond to subpoenas issued two weeks ago by the House and Senate judiciary committees for witnesses and documents related to the dismissal of federal prosecutors. Thursday is the deadline for the White House to turn over documents linked to Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel and Sara M. Taylor, the former political director.

If the White House fails to produce the material, the House and Senate could begin a process leading to contempt resolutions to force compliance. Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney is in a separate standoff with Congress and the National Archive over his office’s refusal to follow an executive order concerning the handling of classified documents by his office.

The Washington Post claims that lawmakers only want to "understand and reconstruct" the timeline and detail of the ongoing debate within the Bush administration over the legality of the wiretapping and Spying On Americans programs :

The White House offered no word on whether it will turn over the documents by the July 18 deadline. "We're aware of the committee's action, and will respond appropriately," spokesman Tony Fratto said. "It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation."

Bush secretly launched the eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to Bush's eventual public description, the program allowed monitoring without a warrant of telephone calls, e-mails and other communication into or out of the Unitd States when one of the parties was suspected of terrorist ties.

The existence of the classified program was revealed in media reports in December 2005, angering lawmakers who called the program an infringement of civil liberties. The Bush administration has defended it as crucial to protecting the nation from further attacks.

Congressional interest in the program was stoked by testimony last month by former deputy attorney general James B. Comey that in 2004, Gonzales, then White House counsel, tried to pressure then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft to recertify a controversial part of the program while Ashcroft was recovering from gallbladder surgery.

Ashcroft refused to abandon his objections, which have not been disclosed, and the White House initially recertified the part of the program at issue without obtaining a routine affirmation of its legality from the Justice Department. Bush backed down, however, when Ashcroft, Comey and other Justice officials threatened to resign, and some changes were made to obtain the Justice Department's approval.

"After we learned from Jim Comey about the late-night hospital visit to John Ashcroft's bedside, it was even more imperative that we find out the who, what, how and why surrounding the wiretapping of Americans without warrants," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

But it's not the Dems who are going for Bush Co.'s collective throat over the deeply unpopular Spying On Americans programs. Republicans are getting in on the action as well :

"The bipartisan support for issuing these subpoenas demonstrates that both Democrats and Republicans are fed up with the misleading statements from the attorney general and the administration about this illegal program," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a member of the committee.
Fun times.

White House Rejects Subpoenas, Invokes Executive Privilege

Bush Told He Must Explain Why Invoking Executive Privilege Is Justified