May 15, 2007

"I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general...."

Disturbing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee from James B. Comey:
Although Mr. Comey declined to say specifically what the business was that sent [Alberto] Gonzales to the bedside of [John] Ashcroft in George Washington Hospital, where he lay critically ill with pancreatitis, it was clear that the subject was the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program. The signature of Mr. Ashcroft or his surrogate was needed by the next day, March 11, in order to renew the program, which was still secret at that time....

“I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that,” Mr. Comey replied....

Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card entered the room, with Mr. Gonzales carrying an envelope. “And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter,” Mr. Comey related.

“And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me,” Mr. Comey went on: He raised his head from the pillow, reiterated his objections to the program, then lay back down, pointing to Mr. Comey as the attorney general during his illness.

25 comments:

Doyle said...

Now you're disturbed?

Fen said...

"international terrorist surveillance program (wrongly described by the Associated Press as a warrantless wiretapping program)" - Powerline

NYTs editorilizes: it was clear that the subject was the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program

[note: hey, we're not about to be toppped by AP - editor, NYTs]

Fen said...

Doyle, the facists are on the march. You should flee to Paris immediately. I've got your back.

Pogo said...

So when is FDR going to be burned in effigy for screening incoming and outgoing telegrams during WW2? Soon?

Cedarford said...

Sounds like an overdramatic way of saying Comey disagreed with the wishes of his boss, Card and Gonzales were onto Comey's efforts to block the program, went of Ashcroft, who was too sick and in to much pain to intervene and rein in Comey and deal with the matter of extending the program himself.

After Ashcroft recovered, he made it quite clear that he supported the domestic program and regarded Comey as treacherous in attempting to exploit Ashcroft's illness to pursue "Comey's matter of conscience".

Doyle said...

Fen -

Could you please point me in the direction of the mischaraterizations in the bolded phrases?

They're irrefutable.

Joe said...

My first thought was who was exploiting whom here?

My second thought was "who cares?"

Fen said...
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Fen said...

Could you please point me in the direction of the mischaraterizations in the bolded phrases?

international terrorist surveillance != domestic surveillance

Its dishonest of the NYTs to editorialize otherwise. Fearmongering.

NSA datamines calls from suspected terrorists originating from overseas into the US. If Mohammed is dialing you up from Damascus, I don't mind if the NSA listens in. Do you?

If you're having trouble with the concept, ask your phone company to explain the difference between local phone calls and international calls.

Balfegor said...

My understanding, without looking particularly deeply (beyond here and the posts at Volokh Conspiracy) is that Comey discussed his concerns with the President a little later (though not in the same period), and either the implementation of the program was adjusted or Comey was apprised of facts that led him to conclude the program was fine after all. The anecdote is quite dramatic, though, shows Ashcroft in an extremely good light, and shows Gonzalez off in, if it were possible, an even worse light than his earlier admission that he (possibly unconstitutionally) delegated authority within the DOJ to his subordinates, and was out-to-lunch on pretty much everything the Department did.

No, on second thought, I think that second one takes the cake.

Doyle said...

If either party of a phone call is a "US Person" it can't be legally wiretapped without a warrant.

Verso said...

Ann,
I believe this is the first time I have ever seen you acknowledge anything done by anyone in the Bush Administration to be "disturbing." I hope this is a sign of things to come.

Fen said...

no, its still unsettled:

The administration holds that an exception to the normal warrant requirements exists when the purpose of the surveillance is to prevent attack from a foreign threat. Such an exception has been upheld at the Circuit Court level when the target was a foreign agent residing abroad[30][31] a foreign agent residing in the US[32][33][34][35]and a US citizen abroad.[36] The warrantless exception was struck down when both the target and the threat was deemed domestic.[37] The legality of targeting US persons acting as agents of a foreign power and residing in this country has not been addressed by the US Supreme Court.

Although Gonzales "informed U.S. Senate leaders ...that the program would not be reauthorized by the president. Any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court"

FWIW, I wouldn't care if NSA was listening to domestic to domestic calls, provided that its in pursuit of terrorists and that evidence gained is not allowed in court.

Thats the major difference to me: you want our Intelligence Agencies to treat the WoT as a criminal investigation subject to due process, miranda, privacy rights etc, so it will stand up in a courtroom? [see: Clinton, passed on habndover of Osama]

I prefer our agents treat the WoT as a warfighting exercise, gathering information to prevent terrorist attacks. Again, I have no issue with NSA tapping domestic lines, as long as its understood that evidence gathered on US citizens is not allowed to be introduced in court.

Fen said...

/sry, the cites were from Wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_warrantless_surveillance_controversy

Not a comprehensive source, but useful for this convo.

Fen said...

Regardless, your statement: If either party of a phone call is a "US Person" it can't be legally wiretapped without a warrant does not address the NYTs distortion that the NSA program is "domestic survelliance".

MadisonMan said...
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MadisonMan said...

Card and Gonzales come off looking pretty awful in this story. This story and Newt's divorce make me think Republicans and Hospitals are a bad mix.

radar said...

Doyle wrote: If either party of a phone call is a "US Person" it can't be legally wiretapped without a warrant.


In a 'standard' domestic wiretap, the warrant is for only one end of the conversation, right? Someone calling to the tapped number or receiving a call from the tapped number isn't identified in the warrant.

If the tapped number is overseas, why should that suddenly require the use of warrant to protect the unknown parties calling that number or receiving calls from that number? Is the argument really that a warrant is needed to protect the rights of the foreign party?

Jacob said...

The fuller quote is very interesting:
"They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there — to seek his approval . . . .

And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me — drawn from the hour-long meeting we’d had a week earlier — and in very strong terms expressed himself, and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general. . . . There is the attorney general, and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left."

Cedarford said...

Doyle said...
If either party of a phone call is a "US Person" it can't be legally wiretapped without a warrant.

That's crap.

Every President since Carter has carved out a National Security Exception, starting with Griffin Bell's signed claim of waiver.

Enemy-lovers do love to claim that the Ultimate Wisdom of FISA as seen by "civil libertarians, radical Islamoids and hard Left lovers of terrorist rights" - is that listening is bad and should never be done until you verify the Islamoids killers are not American Islamoid killers here, or anywhere in the Muslim world.

Why wouldn't we want to listen to an American Mullah-head asking an Egyptian fellow believer to send some nerve gas in?

The likely solution we are headed for, aided no doubt by American jihadi terrorists bound to kill infidel Americans some time....is that we listen with no regard to US citizens requiring warrants if they are suspicious, for intelligence needed to ptotect tens of thousands, even 10s of millions of US lives. But that all criminal prosecutions require the evidence used to convict be based on warrants based on probable cause. Exceptions on Americans overseas outside our court system and first intel-gathering calls (up to 3 to 5).

This different than any other war. We have an internal enemy, out to kill fellow Americans based on their religious faith. An enemy that is contemptuous of the criminal justice system and if they ever won, would have ACLU-types at the near-top of their liquidation lists.

Roger said...

Wait! Wait! Wait Ashkrofft was Evil--a nazi--a Christian right wing nut!

You mean the meme was wrong? And even worse: the decider, actually let DOJ get its way and to go with their conscious?

THATS NOT THE STORY LINE...Wrong heros, wrong time, wrong place.
Curses, back to the drawing board.

The world is always more complicated that the simplistic story lines of both the left and the right. NUANCE, folks, NUANCE.

Roger said...

and, please, conscious really equal conscience.

TMink said...

Fen wrote: " Again, I have no issue with NSA tapping domestic lines, as long as its understood that evidence gathered on US citizens is not allowed to be introduced in court."

I do Fen. I accept it as prudent and helpful in the current WoT, but only grudgingly. I think you are accurate in your statements of fact, but I also think I am more uncomfortable with the situation than you.

Trey

Roger said...

And one last synapse fires: has it crossed anyone's mind that perhaps Comey's testimony could be self serving? Is there an alternate meta-narrative?

And lest I be roundly attacked, I have no idea one way or the other: I havent followed the story, and don't honestly give a damn about it, but anytime a bureaurcrat goes before congress and spills his or her guts, there just MAY be alternative explanations. suspend judgment until all the facts are in; for example, John Ashcroft's version of things.

Fen said...

tmink: I do Fen. I accept it as prudent and helpful in the current WoT, but only grudgingly... I am more uncomfortable with the situation than you.

Well, I'm not completely wedded to the idea, and am open to counterpoints from the likes of Volokh & Althouse. I just want to avoid another Gorelick "wall" that hamstrings national security with hyper-technicalities.