Thursday, June 28, 2007
The Senate Judiciary Committee sent subpoenas to the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Counsel, and the Department of Justice for documents related to the government's domestic surveillance program launched after the September 11 attacks. These latest subpoenas arise out of the investigation of the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006, and relate to the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about a 2004 meeting in the intensive care unit with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft about whether the Department of Justice would continue to authorize the surveillance program. Comey's testimony concerned pressure placed on Ashcroft, recently out of surgery and still quite ill, to authorize the program over Comey's objection, which he did not do. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who participated in the meeting at the hospital in his role then as Counsel to the President, has testified generally that there were no substantive objections to the program, which may not be entirely accurate. The White House subpoena (here along with links to the other three subpoenas) includes a demand for the following: " All documents from September 11, 2001 to the present . . . that was the subject of discussion during the March 2004 hospital visit to former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other events that former Deputy Attorney General James Corney described in his May 15,2007 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee . . . ."
The subpoenas to Administration offices require production of a broad range of documents related to the surveillance program, and is sure to draw a claim of Executive Privilege from the White House. Whether any relevant documents are available from the Department of Justice is an open question, and a claim of attorney-client privilege could be asserted, too. Like the earlier subpoena to the White House for documents related to the U.S. Attorney firings (see earlier post here), this one won't be resolved any time soon. (ph)