Leahy readies subpoenas on warrantless wiretapping
The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee strongly criticized the Justice Department for obstructing an investigation of the Bush administration's warrantless spying program. The statement came after the committee scheduled a hearing next week to authorize subpoenas related to the shadowy government program.
"The warrantless wiretapping program has operated for over five years outside of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and without the approval of the FISA Court. The Committee has continued to ask for the legal justification for this sweeping and secret program, and has continually been rebuffed by inadequate and at times, misleading, responses from this Justice Department," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "The information we have requested has been specific to the legal justification for this program and is firmly within the Committee’s oversight jurisdiction."
Leahy's statement came after his committee had announced earlier in the day that it planned to "authorize subpoenas in connection with investigation of legal basis for warrantless wiretap program," according to the committee's website. The meeting will occur on Thursday, June 14.
The Senator noted his frustration with the lack of response from the Attorney General on the earlier requests for information sent by the Committee on the program.
"The Justice Department’s continued frustration of this Committee’s attempts to carry out its constitutional oversight function is unfortunate," he added in the statement. "We will continue in our pursuit of this information until we get it, so that we can carry out our constitutional duties."
In a hearing Thursday afternoon at the House Judiciary Committee, a Justice Department official refused to turn over President Bush's legal justification for the warrantless spying program.
"Those [Office of Legal Counsel opinions] reflect the internal confidential legal advice of the executive branch," said Steven G. Bradbury, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. "We are citing the confidentiality interests that the executive branch has in internal confidential deliberative advice of the executive branch."
The program is operated by the National Security Agency and legally certified by the Justice Department.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who chairs the subcommittee on constitutional issues and is investigating the program, slammed the Bush White House's actions in warrantless eavesdropping.
"We rejected monarchy in this country more than 200 years ago...This President appears to have forgotten that fact," he said in his opening statement. "Not only has he asserted the right to go around the FISA Court and the Wiretap Act, but he has actually done so."
Nadler went further in an earlier interview with Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall.
"This entire warrantless wiretapping is illegal and the President and Attorney General are engaged in a criminal conspiracy. I mean, to me this is worse than Watergate," he said in the video interview.