Judiciary Committee demands warrantless wiretapping docs
In a scathing letter sent to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded extensive documentation of the White House's justification of its warrantless wiretapping program.
The request comes in the wake of last week's testimony from former Deputy Attorney General James Comey that appeared to illustrate the extent to which then-White House counsel Gonzales, and other administration officials, would go to spy on Americans without prior court approval. Comey said Gonzales and former chief of staff Andrew Card visited an extremely ill Attorney General John Ashcroft in his hospital room to press him to certify the program.
"This incident obviously raises very serious questions about your personal behavior and commitment to the rule of law," Sens. Patrick Leahy, the committee's chairman, and Arlen Specter, its ranking member, wrote to Gonzales in the letter released Tuesday.
The senators called for an end to Gonzales's "stonewalling," pointing out they had made at least eight requests for information about the program in the last 18 months.
The Judiciary Committee is considering an administration proposal to redefine the parameters of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which critics say was skirted when the National Security Agency began wiretapping suspected terrorists within the US without a warrant.
"Your consistent stonewalling and misdirection have prevented this Committee from carrying out its constitutional oversight and legislative duties for far too long," Specter, R-Pa., and Leahy, D-Vt., wrote.
The senators requested all documents related to President Bush's authorization of the surveillance program, any documents produced within the executive branch detailing the program's legal justification, communication between the administration and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court concerning the program and other information that would have been subject to discussion during Gonzales's visit to Ashcroft in the hospital.
The senators also requested that Gonzales provide the documents within two weeks time.