Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ashcroft refused to authorize warrantless wiretapping

I've never been a big fan of John Ashcroft.

However in light of recent testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey... I'm seeing John Ashcroft in a whole new light.

According the testimony by Comey, Ashcroft was so offended when he discovered that the Bush Administration had initiated a program of warrentless wiretapping on American citizens in 2004, that he was actually prepared to resign in protest. Other members of the Defense Department also threatened to resign, along with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Ashcroft apparently believes in the sanctity of the Constitution.

This would not have come as a shock to us in 2004. We were still innocent then. Long ago - in 2004 - most of us still believed that all of our legislators adhered to the Constitution, on which they had taken their oath of office.

Compared with Bush, Cheney and gang, Ashcroft seems almost heroic in the stand he took against warrantless wiretapping during his watch. And he did manage to squelch it, at least for awhile. Or at least the most blatantly illegal portions of it, the portions that were completely indefensible. Exactly what any of this entailed is, of course, secret. Everything that involves our Constitutional rights - completely secret. And whatever Ashcroft managed to avoid for us only lasted until Alberto Gonzales took over.

The story that came out in Comey's testimony, of Ashcroft - lying sick in a hospital bed with pancreatitis in March of 2004 - is startling in its coldly calculated attempt at manipulation.

Apparently, the GOP does eat its own.

Comey told Congress that Ashcroft refused to sign off on the spying campaign because he believed it was unconstitutional (proving once and for all that the Justice Department, at least initially, believed the surveillance program to be illegal.)

Comey then told the Justice Committee a little story.

It seems that then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card actually tried to coerce Ashcroft into re-authorizing the program as he lay seriously ill in a hospital bed with pancreatitis, after then acting-Attorney General Comey (who was covering for him in his absence,) refused to sign off on the program.

Apparently hoping to catch Ashcroft at an unguarded moment while he was sick and perhaps incognizant, Gonzales and Card raced to the hospital in an attempt to get Ashcroft to sign from his hospital bed. When Comey discovered their plan, he too raced to the hospital, arriving ahead of them to support Ashcroft.

From McClatchy:

The Bush administration ran its warrantless eavesdropping program without the Justice Department's approval for up to three weeks in 2004, nearly triggering a mass resignation of the nation's top law enforcement officials, the former No. 2 official disclosed Tuesday.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey said that those he believed were prepared to quit included then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Comey said then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card visited Ashcroft as he lay gravely ill in a hospital bed on March 10, 2004, and pressed him to re-certify the program's legality. Ashcroft refused.

"I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very seriously sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me," Comey recalled. "I thought it was improper."

Comey, who'd assumed Ashcroft's powers on an acting basis, had raced ahead of Gonzales and Card to the George Washington University Hospital, his car's emergency lights flashing, and dashed up the stairs to Ashcroft's room, trailed by his security detail.

"That night was probably the most difficult time of my professional life," Comey recalled.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) called Comey's words "some of the most powerful testimony I've heard in 25 years as a legislator." Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), a long time critic of the eavesdropping program, praised Comey for standing up to the White House.

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