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NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance Order From Hospital Bed

The New York Times reports major news in the NSA warrantless electronic surveillance story: When it came time for an extension of the program in 2004, former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in intensive care recovering from pancreatitis. Then Deputy AG James Comey objected to some aspects of the program and refused to sign off on it. Alberto Gonzales (then White House Counsel) and Andrew Card actually went to see Ashcroft in the hospital to get him to sign off on it.

Accounts differed as to exactly what was said at the hospital meeting between Mr. Ashcroft and the White House advisers. But some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation.

It is unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to give his approval to the program after the meeting or moved ahead without it.

It doesn't sound like they got Ashcroft fully on board:

What is known is that in early 2004, about the time of the hospital visit, the White House suspended parts of the program for several months and moved ahead with more stringent requirements on the security agency on how the program was used, in part to guard against abuses. The concerns within the Justice Department appear to have led, at least in part, to the decision to suspend and revamp the program, officials said. The Justice Department then oversaw a secret audit of the surveillance program.

More big news: In 2002, even then Deputy AG Larry Thompson was kept in the dark.

At its outset in 2002, the surveillance operation was so highly classified that even Larry Thompson, the deputy attorney general to Mr. Ashcroft, who was active in most of the government's most classified counterterrorism operations, was not given access to the program.

That led to uncertainties about the chain of command in overseeing law enforcement activities connected to the program, officials said, and it appears to have spurred concerns within the Justice Department over its use. Mr. Thompson's successor, Mr. Comey, was eventually authorized to take part in the program and to review intelligence material that grew out of it, and officials said he played a part in overseeing the reforms that were put in place in 2004.

It sounds like some former Justice Department lawyers or lawyers in the White House Counsel's office believe Bush's warrantless spying plan was illegal and are talking. I doubt it's anyone high up like Comey or Thompson, who don't talk out of school, but those in the middle ranks. It's time for a special counsel to be appointed.

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  • time for a special counsel indeed! they have totally gone over the bourgeois line, much like Nixon. this story and the administration's troubles get more and more incredible by the day. have they no sense? have they no respect for the constitution and the limits of power? and boy am I glad some of these officials are talking. there's lot of leaks out there and no justice department white wash investigation is going to stop this.

    pancreatitis Hmmm- Most cases of pancreatitis are caused either by alcohol abuse or by gallstones. I'd think that working with this administration would make anyone drink.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#3)
    by demohypocrates on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 01:37:44 AM EST
    Underling consults overling to make decision. Big crime? Underling not consulted on certain matters. Big crime? Leftists have a way of seizing upon people whom they agree with and then give them final authority on matters. Desk jockey Plame, victim, CIA Field Agents in Europe now under indictment bc of NY Times disclosures, criminals, - let the wolves chomp. Dont EVER say you care about National Security, you care about what hurts Repubs. It angers me but then when I realize that you are so devoid of principles and so full of hatred, I realize that you will continue to lose on these critical issues. Keep up the good work.

    My one and only Resolution for 2006: I will never respond, not once, to any troll's psychotic ramblings, not even the unusually weird screeds that lately have begun to infect Talk Left from this whacko demohypocrite. To do so is a pointless waste of electrons, pixels, precious time and psychic energy. Instead, I will devote my attention to ending the war in Iraq, vanquishing the fascists who've infested our government, chasing the right wing screwballs, like demohypcrite, back under their rocks and restoring democracy to my beloved country. Happy New Year Jeralyn, TChris and Last Night...you all are The Best!

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#5)
    by The Heretik on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 08:27:08 AM EST
    Why are all attempts by citizens seeking to be fully informed framed as hatred of all that is American? Attacking the patriotism of your opponent is the first principle of the propaganda monger. Questioning The Leader is the essence of America. Anybody who doubts these truths can read the document that begins: We hold these truths to be . . . Oy. I do have some Private Concerns. But as the great political commmentator Britney Spears said, "I just think we should, you know, trust the President in everything he says and does." Why does Talk Left hate America?

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#6)
    by demohypocrates on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 08:35:06 AM EST
    I will devote my attention to ending the war in Iraq, vanquishing the fascists who've infested our government, chasing the right wing screwballs, like demohypcrite, back under their rocks and restoring democracy to my beloved country.
    You must be like, tomas Jeferson or bOno or something.

    Terrykindlon Well said, I have found most of the wingnuts are not here to inform or discuss but to inflame and hijack the discussion. It is better to ignore them than to waste our comment time debating petty vile characters like demon.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#8)
    by Johnny on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 09:34:11 AM EST
    Despite not having any proof that the voyeuristic inclinations of government make us safer, the wrong-wingers still just love that intrusive style of governing, all the while blaming large government solely on lefties... Speak of hypocrisy...

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dadler on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 10:55:06 AM EST
    Johnny, Yep. Exactly.

    Some great posts on here so far. MJM72 asks "Have they no respect for the Constitution and the limits of power?", which sounds very odd coming from a party that supports judges finding all sorts of new rights in the Constitution when it suits them. Again, MJ, this suveillance issue is not new, is not illegal, and is expressly provided for in the War Powers Act. Now, I'm no Constitutional scholar, so rather than getting into a Constitutional debate, can we not debate the ACTUAL CASE, and discuss what it is about spying on conversations certain citizens are having with AL QUEDA that drives you nuts? Is your concern one of protecting the right of Americans to communicate with terrorists? Or are you upset over the general idea that such surveillance MIGHT be abused? If so, is it not reasonable to discuss the value of the current surveillance, and the proper response if in the FUTURE it gets abused in some other investigation? Heretik, Speaking of "attacking the Patriotism of your opponent", isn't that what's done on here all the time by Leftists who deny the patriotism of conservatives and even George Bush by accusing them of lying, caring only about oil, and really just wanting to make Halliburton rich? The issue of patriotism is certainly a complex one, but at its simplest, it seems that the Left reflexively equates patriotism with fascistic tendencies, labeling conservatives as blind followers. I'd say that not suporting your own government in its quest to root out terrorists is questionable in its patriotism. Clearly George Bush has not used this current surveillance to steal industrial secrets, or to blackmail legislators, or to hurt political enemies. Not even the Left has accused him of that. No, he's used it to monitor the communications of certain citizens with a known terrorist organization, and for that, the Left is now calling for his impeachment. Does that sound very patriotic to you? Secondly, is the essence of America really "questioning the leader"? Is that what our main focus should be? You might be right, but it seems to me that an additional essence might be "working to protect our unique nation from the forces dedicated to killing her citizens". In other words, what is it you are really doing? Are you questioning the President's strategy, or his integrity? For example, I firmly believe that claiming to support the troops while opposing the war is an oxymoron. Supporting the troops means supporting their decision, their dedication, and their mission. Opposing the war directly endangers the troops. So, it's OK to oppose the war, just don't wrap yourself in the flag while doing it. Discovering the essence of America might be a little more complicated than you've proposed. Johnny, Are you not aware of the tremendous damage done to organized crime in this country by effective wiretapping investigastions? You're question is a little irrational. Ed and Terry, Announcing that you'll never discuss issues with people who disagree with you is sort of official head-in-the-sandedness, don't you think? I know some posters of both stripes can get personally insulting at times, which we all find tedious, but do you really view my comments, for example, to be "wingnut" and "inflamatory" for no other purpose than "hijacking the conversation"? www.liberallyspeaking.blogs.com

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#11)
    by Sailor on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 11:40:51 AM EST
    Again, MJ, this suveillance issue is not new, is not illegal, and is expressly provided for in the War Powers Act.
    1) War hasn't been declared. 2) Nothing triumphs the constitution.
    sounds very odd coming from a party that supports judges finding all sorts of new rights in the Constitution when it suits them
    Nothing is more 'activist' than the supreme court appointing a president.

    Sailor, Actually, the Congress granted Bush war powers after 9-11. I mean, just to be accurate. And also, though it's a side issue to this thread, the Supreme Court did not appoint a president. It actually did something quite simple, and quite interesting. It decided that a court (the Florida Supreme Court), cannot override the democratic process of the people (Florida's election rules, determined by the people) in the middle of an election. That's pretty interesting, isn't it? The Florida legislature had established electoral regulations pertaining to the length of time permitted for recounts. The Florida Supreme Court decided, in the middle of an election, to change those rules, specifically, to allow one candiate to continuously recount, (parenhetically, to recount certain districts in which they felt they had an advantage, and to perfom those recounts by manual manipulation of paper ballots, which, by the way, produces LESS accuracy, not more). So you see, the US Supreme Court did not "appoint a president" at all. They supported the democratic process itself through the laws determined BY THE PEOPLE, and the Florida Constitution. I mean, that may be upsetting to you, if it's important for you to hold on to the myth that Bush "stole" the election, but I think the actual legal question involved is quite manageable. www.liberallyspeaking.blogs.com

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 12:18:37 PM EST
    RK: And also, though it's a side issue to this thread... Side issues? Why do you keep advertising your blog here, as well as posting url's that are not in HTML format and skew her site after having been asked by TalkLeft to stop doing so? It's a question of respect, you know?

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#14)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 12:21:16 PM EST
    Seven of the nine Justices agreed that the lack of unified standards in counting votes violated the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection, but five agreed that there was insufficient time to impose a unified standard and that the recounts should therefore be stopped. link not exactly the same as
    They supported the democratic process itself through the laws determined BY THE PEOPLE, and the Florida Constitution.


    Soccerdad, You're correct. The actions you cite are not EXACTLY like "supporting the democratic process", but they're pretty darn close, and a far, far cry from "appointing the president", which was MJ's accusation. Edgar, I only post URL links using this site's own URL button, so you're quarrel may be with the site host. Also, I don't link to my blog, I only mention that I have one. Don't you think that in the comradrie of the bloggosphere, that doing so is quite in tune with the egalitarian nature of th web? Isn't the essence of the web just this sort of connectivity and community? Aren't you attacking me simply because I have different views than your own? Aren't you promoting censorship? Aren't you promoting a restricting of the ability of people to come together? ;) Hey, just giving you a hard time.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#16)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 01:11:31 PM EST
    No, not even close, they just decided that despite a bad election there wasn't time to fix it. Thats an arbitrary decision.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 01:13:33 PM EST
    I only post URL links using this site's own URL button, so you're quarrel may be with the site host. If that's the case then you might want to use the preview button, play around , and figure out how to do it properly. If you do it right it will look like this: www.talkleft.com Not like this: www.talkleft.com Also, I don't link to my blog, I only mention that I have one. Now you're splitting hairs. You're not that stupid. Are you? Aren't you attacking me simply because I have different views than your own? I asked you a question. Here's a couple more: Do you always get defensive and insecure when asked a question? And take questions as attacks?

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#19)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 03:25:55 PM EST
    was a specific statute in place concerning the time allowed for recounts.
    what was it?
    Besides, clearly there was no state-wide recount going on, there was no uniform method for recounting, and physically handling the ballots produces more error. So the assertion that there was some way to "fix it" is just erroneous.
    Immaterial to SCOTUS decision and by state law there only had to be a challange of 3 counties. if they stop the recount Bush wins for sure. Invoking the human error factor. Now this is so freakin lame as to be funny.
    Swinging back to the direction of this thread, perhaps this is a good point to refresh the idea of patriotism
    The ultimate winger cop out, when you're losing the argument invoke patriotism. How pathetic can you get. If that's all you got... This is PPJ's favorite trick, I was hoping you were at a higher level. You might have above average writing skills but it contains all the usual tired out winger techniques.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#21)
    by Sailor on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 03:56:25 PM EST
    RK is worse than ppj, his troll args have been disproven over and over and he only posts to promote himself. Try to learn to format a link.
    Actually, the Congress granted Bush war powers after 9-11.
    That's a lie. Nothing in that bill invoked the War Powers and besides it was gained upon data falsified by bushco.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#22)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 04:02:10 PM EST
    stop parsing the word appoint. They stopped the process on an arbitrary decision insuring a Bush victory even though 7/9 agreed there were serious problems. Stopping the recount insured the Bush victory they might as well appointed him. As we all know patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Invoking patriotism arbitrarily is the last refuge of someone who cant win on merit.

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#23)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 04:04:21 PM EST
    BTW where was the name calling, unless you are so sensitive as to consider winger a problem. You are just more subtle doing it by innuendo.

    Soccerdad, That date was Tuesday, December 12th, 2000 at 5pm. But look, I'll agree that it's a complex issue that comes down to the interpretation of the words "may" and "shall", but my point isn't the technical minutae of the election process, but the fact that at some point the process ends. The election wasn't "stolen" and the SCOTUS didn't "appoint the president". That's the issue. I don't know why you consider the fact of the innacuracy of hand recounts to be "lame", but that's a material fact. And far fom a cop-out, when do you think it's appropriate to discuss the value of supporting our electoral process? The Washington State governors race was recently lost by the Republican candidate who refused to drive recounting into the ground, and was later shown to have won the ballotting. Pardon my snorting, but it seems to me that resorting to name calling might indicate a lack of an argument. But hey, I still respect your opinion.

    Soccerdad, Well, that's where I disagree with you. They didn't decide it was a "bad election", and the reason they determined that there "wasn't time to fix it" was because there was a specific statute in place concerning the time allowed for recounts. Besides, clearly there was no state-wide recount going on, there was no uniform method for recounting, and physically handling the ballots produces more error. So the assertion that there was some way to "fix it" is just erroneous. The fact is that in any human endeavor there is an error factor; lost ballots, confused voters, fraud of one kind or another. And this error is always present whether during an election or during a manufacturing process. It cannot be eliminated. it never really becomes a factor until the outcome is as close as the 2000 election. It's happened before. That's another reason that we have the Electoral College. but oh God, her we go again rehashing the election. Again, the point is that the SCOTUS did not "appoint the president". Swinging back to the direction of this thread, perhaps this is a good point to refresh the idea of patriotism. Maybe the willingness to suport the democratic system is an indicator of patriotism, rather than spending 5 years claiming the president is illegitimate. That does tremendous damage to the heart of our nation. What about the patriotism of saying, "OK boys, we lost this one, but that's how the system works". Talk about dividing the nation...

    Re: NYT: Ashcroft Asked to Okay NSA Surveillance O (none / 0) (#24)
    by The Heretik on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 09:05:01 PM EST
    RK Thank you for setting me straight on following leaders, particularly during a time of war. Leaders with answers that stand up to scrutiny don't fear questions. Also commenters. Attributing "reflexive" responses to an opponent suggests only one side offers any thought to an argument. Um, thanks again.