Jul 14, 2007
Showdown Coming Next Week Over NSA CATCH-ALL Document Subpoenas
President Bush has until Wednesday to decide whether the White House will wage a Constitutional war on two fronts, when subpoenaed documents about the scope and legality of the President's warrantless wiretapping program are due to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If Bush decides to buck the Senate's demands by asserting Executive Privilege, Senator Patrick Leahy -- the the sharp-tongued Vermont Democrat helming the committee, will likely initiate contempt proceedings, as is happening in the House, where the President has prevented testimony in the controversy over the politically-motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys.
Leahy subpoenaed the White House, the Vice President, the National Security Council and the Justice Department on June 27, seeking documents about the legal opinions justifying the spy program, spying agreements with the nation's telecoms and documents related to denying Justice Department investigators security clearances to look into the program.
According to the government's admission, the program, given the tautological moniker Terrorist Surveillance Program by the government, spied on Americans emails and phone calls when the National Security Agency believed that one of the parties to the conversation had links to terrorism and that one end of the conversation was outside the United States.
Given the administration is trying to squash suits against itself and against its alleged telecom partners in the warrantless snooping based on the notion, there's little chance the Administration will give their Democratic foe the documents he wants. Instead, they will likely find another way to re-send the message that Vice Presidet Cheney famously sent Leahy. But how will they do it? Turn over a limited number of almost blank papers? Flat out refuse to testify or give documents, citing executive privilege? A horse head in Leahy's bed? Will someone from the Administration eventually end up in Congress's little known jail cell?
The spying matter is now playing on the big screen both in Congress and the courts.
The president's spying program recently surmounted one legal challenge when an appeals court struck down a lower court decision that the program was illegal, ruling that the journalists and lawyers who sued couldn't prove they were spied on so had no standing to sue.
However, another suit now enmeshed in the Ninth Circuit may be able to evade that Catch-22, since the plaintiffs claim that the government accidentally gave them a document showing they were spied upon without a warrant.
For those of you who like to keep track, ACLU has a illustrated scorecard on who has been subpoenaed and what documents the group wants to see requested. The Administration is likely to signal its intentions prior to Wednesday's deadline, so start your popcorn maker now.