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.
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