Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cheney Urged Wiretaps

This latest tidbit of news doesn’t really come as a big surprise.

Vice President Cheney told Justice Department officials that he disagreed with their objections to a secret surveillance program during a high-level White House meeting in March 2004, a former senior Justice official told senators yesterday.

The meeting came one day before White House officials tried to get approval for the same program from then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who lay recovering from surgery in a hospital, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey.

Comey’s disclosures, made in response to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicate that Cheney and his aides were more closely involved than previously known in a fierce internal battle over the legality of the warrantless surveillance program. The program allowed the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between the United States and overseas.

Comey said that Cheney’s office later blocked the promotion of a senior Justice Department lawyer, Patrick Philbin, because of his role in raising concerns about the surveillance.

The last part — where the vice president put the kibosh on the promotion of a lawyer who dared to stand up to the administration’s attempts to circumvent the rule of law — isn’t much of a shock either.

Philbin was one of two Justice Department officials who led a review of the classified program and provided some of the research that led Comey to refuse to endorse it, Comey said.

“Mr. Comey has confirmed what we suspected for a while that White House hands guided Justice Department business,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading the Senate’s investigation. “The vice president’s fingerprints are all over the effort to strong-arm Justice on the NSA program.”


According to Comey, Philbin later was considered for a promotion to be principal deputy solicitor general-lieutenant to the lawyer who represents the government before the Supreme Court.

“It was my understanding that the vice president’s office blocked that appointment,” Comey said in his written remarks.

If the plan of the loyal Bushies has been to just numb us into stunned silence by their constant stream of illegal, immoral, and vindictive actions, it’s the one thing they’ve excelled at.