Back to News & Commentary

Ashcroft Defends Constitution in Spying Clusterfrack. Happy Opposite Day!

Share This Page
September 15, 2008

Barton Gellman at The Washington Post has a book about Vice President Dick Cheney called Angler coming out tomorrow. In anticipation of that release, the Post has printed back to back excerpts. I’m fired UP. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, honestly, what are you doing with your time? Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Ok. So, Gellman and Jo Becker were responsible for the series on Cheney that won a Pulitzer Prize this year (first installment here). Go check that out, too. Yesterday and today’s Angler excerpts have been focused on the dissent within the Department of Justice regarding the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. Yes, that very one.

If you’ve been following the drama all the way from the disclosure in the New York Times to the passage of the FISA Amendments Act and the bouts of depression and drinking that came after it (that was possibly just me), then you will likely love these articles. They highlight meetings between top-level administration staff, Justice department staff and National Security Agency staff. Some were clued into the program, others weren’t. Then there were those who were read in and kind of wished they weren’t. Specifically James Comey (remember him and his Tom Clancy-esque testimony about the infamous Ashcroft hospital visit?). You know this story. If you don’t, catch up by reading the Gellman articles. Srsly.

There’s a lot to go over but, for those who’ve been following along, let’s just take quick stock of some of the vitals:

  1. Congress was, in fact, lied to about the legal basis and consensus. By none other than Alberto Gonzales (the man who eventually signed the recertification of the program when Comey wouldn’t). Is anyone shocked? Didn’t think so. The actual shocking part is that Congress just basically made the thing legal with the FISA Amendments Act. So, go figure. I guess you can have your cake, eat it, lie about it, then dupe Congress into passing a law that legitimizes it. (P.S. We’re suing!)
  2. It turns out our very own Ian Thompson was right. David Addington may just be the constitutional version of the Antichrist.
  3. Hell has officially frozen over since I find myself on the same side of a debate as John Ashcroft. As my boss put it, “Ew, now I need a shower.” Ashcroft felt the program was too secret and said he never should have agreed to it in the first place. ASHCROFT. Listen to me and listen carefully: When John Ashcroft is more concerned about your privacy than the National Security Advisor, the Vice President and a handful of other people basically in charge of your government, things have gone terribly awry.
  4. The program almost created a walkout at the Justice Department that would have rivaled the Saturday Night Massacre. Girl!
  5. Turns out, the president was woefully in the dark about the coup about to happen at Justice unless the program was changed. Again, not entirely shocking.

The more information we get about this program, its inception and its obstacles, one can’t help but wonder if maybe Congress legislated a bit too quickly on something it didn’t understand? The answer is yes. Absolutely, yes.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page