Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey reignited interest in Bush’s warrantless wiretap program and the propriety of Alberto Gonzales serving as Attorney General, but his stunning testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee a couple of weeks ago could only go into so much detail. Eventually, the committee ran out of time.
So, Comey agreed to follow-up with senators with written responses to various questions. As luck would have it, they’re pretty interesting, too.
Vice President Cheney told Justice Department officials that he disagreed with their objections to a secret surveillance program during a high-level White House meeting in March 2004, a former senior Justice official told senators yesterday.
The meeting came one day before White House officials tried to get approval for the same program from then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who lay recovering from surgery in a hospital, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey.
Comey’s disclosures, made in response to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicate that Cheney and his aides were more closely involved than previously known in a fierce internal battle over the legality of the warrantless surveillance program…. Comey said that Cheney’s office later blocked the promotion of a senior Justice Department lawyer, Patrick Philbin, because of his role in raising concerns about the surveillance.
In this administration, standing up for the rule of law, even if you’re a conservative Republican, will only lead to punishment and retribution. That Cheney was helping direct the punishment should surprise no one.
In Philbin’s case, he had the audacity to raise legal questions about an administration program that circumvented the law. Alberto Gonzales was not inclined to punish him for those questions, but the Vice President personally intervened — and the AG went along with Cheney’s demands. As Josh Marshall explained, Gonzales was “not personally vindictive or perhaps even a person of malign will, but an obedient servant of bad men.”