Palace Revolt - Newsweek Politics - MSNBC.comBush was driving this as much as Cheney. But what's with Ashcroft being heroic?
... Addington's [jf: Addington is Cheney's Chief of Staff, a real bad actor] problems with Goldsmith were just beginning. In the jittery aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration had pushed the top-secret National Security Agency to do a better and more expansive job of electronically eavesdropping on Al Qaeda's global communications. Under existing law—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, adopted in 1978 as a post-Watergate reform—the NSA needed (in the opinion of most legal experts) to get a warrant to eavesdrop on communications coming into or going out of the United States. Reasoning that there was no time to obtain warrants from a secret court set up under FISA (a sometimes cumbersome process), the Bush administration justified going around the law by invoking a post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing use of force against global terror. The eavesdropping program was very closely held, with cryptic briefings for only a few congressional leaders. Once again, Addington and his allies made sure that possible dissenters were cut out of the loop.
There was one catch: the secret program had to be reapproved by the attorney general every 45 days. It was Goldsmith's job to advise the A.G. on the legality of the program. In March 2004, John Ashcroft was in the hospital with a serious pancreatic condition. At Justice, Comey, Ashcroft's No. 2, was acting as attorney general... Goldsmith raised with Comey serious questions about the secret eavesdropping program, according to two sources familiar with the episode. He was joined by a former OLC lawyer, Patrick Philbin, who had become national-security aide to the deputy attorney general. Comey backed them up. The White House was told: no reauthorization.
The angry reaction bubbled up all the way to the Oval Office. President Bush, with his penchant for put-down nicknames, had begun referring to Comey as "Cuomey" or "Cuomo," apparently after former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who was notorious for his Hamlet-like indecision over whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s. A high-level delegation—White House Counsel Gonzales and chief of staff Andy Card—visited Ashcroft in the hospital to appeal Comey's refusal. In pain and on medication, Ashcroft stood by his No. 2.
A compromise was finally worked out. The NSA was not compelled to go to the secret FISA court to get warrants, but Justice imposed tougher legal standards before permitting eavesdropping on communications into the United States. It was a victory for the Justice lawyers, and it drove Addington to new levels of vexation with Goldsmith.
Monday, January 30, 2006
This Newsweek article is Pulitzer prize winning material. The fact that so many insiders were willing to talk, albeit off the record, tells us just how scared Bush appointees are of what Bush and Cheney are doing to America. It's not just commie pinko traitors like me who are starting to fear Dick Cheney more than Osama bin Laden (emphases mine):