NSA spying scandal explodes: lawless thuggery by Gonzales and Card revealed

The WaPo’s editorial page — which has, unlike the NY Times, in general been pretty lukewarm about blasting the Bush administration — nicely sums up yesterday’s testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey (emphasis mine):

James B. Comey, the straight-as-an-arrow former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, yesterday offered the Senate Judiciary Committee an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source.

Here’s what happened (a pdf transcript of Comey’s testimony is here — the block quotes below are from the transcript).  In March of 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had, in consultation with Comey and other DoJ staff, concluded that the NSA spying program (Comey wouldn’t ever confirm exactly which program he was talking about, but there’s no real doubt what it was) had no legal basis, and that they therefore would refuse to sign off on its reauthorization.  Shortly after that meeting, Ashcroft was rushed to the hospital in very serious medical condition.  Ashcroft remained in intensive care for over a week, during which time Comey was named Acting Attorney General. 

And over the next week — particularly the following week, on Tuesday — we communicated to the relevant parties at the White House and elsewhere our decision that as acting attorney general I would not certify the program as to its legality and explained our reasoning in detail….

Then the story goes Hollywood.  Ashcroft remained in intensive care, and his wife had banned all visitors.  Nonetheless, Comey got a call at about 8 pm the next night from Ashcroft’s chief of staff alerting him that then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card were on their way to Ashcroft’s hospital room.  Comey told his driver to get him to the hospital (they apparently turned on their sirens to do so), and he called FBI Director Robert Mueller, who said he also would rush to the hospital.  Why?

I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that.

Comey was, of course, correct.  Fortunately, he got to the hospital before Gonzales and Card.  He tried to explain to Ashcroft what was happening.

I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.

Comey obviously knew what was coming, and he took steps to protect himself and Ashcroft:

I went out in the hallway. Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances.

So Comey, along with a couple of his staff from DoJ who had since arrived, waited.

And it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there — to seek his approval for a matter, and explained what the matter was — which I will not do.

And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me — drawn from the hour-long meeting we’d had a week earlier — and in very strong terms expressed himself, and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, … “But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general. There is the attorney general,” and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left. The two men did not acknowledge me. They turned and walked from the room.

Quite a story.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Gonzales and Card, unsurprisingly, were not at all happy with what had just happened.  For convenience, I have bolded the obvious lie spoken by Card.

While I was talking to Director Mueller, an agent came up to us and said that I had an urgent call in the command center, which was right next door…. I took the call. And Mr. Card was very upset and demanded that I come to the White House immediately. I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present. He replied, “What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.” And I said again, “After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness. And I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States.”

“What conduct” indeed.  No doubt the piece of paper in the envelope was just a get-well card signed by the White House staff.  Here’s “what conduct,” as Comey saw it:

I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded — the department as a whole — was unable to be certified as to its legality. And that was my concern.

Why was Comey so insistent on having a witness?

I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me. I thought he had conducted himself, and I said to the attorney general, in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before. But still I thought it was improper. And it was for that reason that I thought there ought to be somebody with me if I’m going to meet with Mr. Card.

So Ted Olson, then the Solicitor General, was dragged from a dinner party and rushed to the White House, where he and Comey went to meet with Card.  Card initially refused to allow Olson into his office, but made him wait outside; Comey agreed to meet with Card anyway.  Apparently the conversation was much more civil than the telephone call had been.

In that conversation, Comey and Card discussed the fact that, if the program was allowed to go forward without the Justice Department’s sign-off as to its legality, there would likely be a large number of high-level resignations, apparently to include Comey and his chief of staff, FBI Director Mueller, and Mr. Ashcroft himself.  Nonetheless, the program was reauthorized without DoJ’s approval.  Comey actually drafted a letter of resignation, intending to resign the next day (Friday, March 12). 

Why resign?

I couldn’t stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis. I just simply couldn’t stay.

Two things delayed Comey’s decision to resign immediately.  First, the Madrid train bombings occurred on Thursday, March 11.  Second, Ashcroft’s chief of staff begged Comey to hold off for a few days on delivering his letter.

Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff asked me something that meant a great deal to him, and that is that I not resign until Mr. Ashcroft was well enough to resign with me. He was very concerned that Mr. Ashcroft was not well enough to understand fully what was going on. And he begged me to wait until — this was Thursday that I was
making this decision — to wait til Monday to give him the weekend to get oriented enough so that I wouldn’t leave him behind, was his concern.

Of course, there were no mass resignations from the Justice Department.  What happened?  This is Friday, March 12, after a regularly-scheduled morning meeting:

[T]he president asked to speak to me, took me in his study and we had a one-on-one meeting for about 15 minutes — again, which I will not go into the substance of. It was a very full exchange. And at the end of that meeting, at my urging, he met with Director Mueller, who was waiting for me downstairs.  He met with Director Mueller again privately, just the two of them. And then after those two sessions, we had his direction to do the right thing … We had the president’s direction to do what we believed, what the Justice Department believed was necessary to put this matter on a footing where we could certify to its legality. And so we then set out to do that. And we did that.

So the President, faced with the politically unacceptable prospect of the top two officials in his Justice Department and the Director of the FBI resigning en masse eight months before the 2004 election, gave in.  He gave Comey the authority to fix the program in such a way that he was able to sign off on its legality.  Comey explained that the program continued to operate in its original (apparently illegal) form for two to three weeks without DoJ sign-off, while he figured out what changes were needed, and then the changes were implemented.

Later in the hearing, Comey explained that, in addition to Gonzales, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, also wanted DoJ to sign off on the original version of the program.  Surprise surprise.  Still later, Senator Feingold offered a good summing-up of what’s going on in Washington.

I have great disagreement with this administration. But there’s a difference in this administration between people like you and Attorney General Ashcroft, who do fundamentally respect the rule of law, and many others who have shown some of the most blatant disrespect for the rule of law I think in American history.

I confess that I’m a bit surprised to learn that John Ashcroft is one of the good guys in this story.  But so be it — kudos to him for standing up to White House pressure despite being in intensive care. 

What’s really appalling, in addition to the story itself, is that Alberto Gonzales is now running the Justice Department.  If this story had come out before Gonzales’ confirmation hearings, he surely would never have been confirmed as Attorney General.  The guy is an embarrassment to his office, and to the country.  He should resign at once.  If he doesn’t, the president should fire him.  And if the president won’t act, the Congress should initiate impeachment proceedings against Gonzales, who has little support among Senate Republicans and who conceivably could receive the 2/3 vote needed for the Senate to convict him.  This nonsense has gone on long enough.

UPDATE: Senators Schumer, Feingold, Durbin, and Kennedy today sent a letter to AG Gonzales that asks, in light of Comey’s testimony yesterday, whether Gonzales “wish[es] to revise” testimony he gave in February, 2006 regarding internal objections to the NSA spying program — testimony which, if Comey testified accurately, was a tissue of lies.  Perhaps they are laying the groundwork for a more or less irrefutable charge of “high crimes and misdemeanors” (specifically, lying to Congress under oath) that would serve as the basis for impeachment.  Let’s hope so.

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59 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Thank You David

    Better then getting the info from  the nyt or boston globe. Good job.

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  2. When I first heard about this

    I legitimately didn't believe it until I watched the testimony. It's totally mind-boggling on so many levels that our government, at the top, is this corrupt. I just cannot believe what our so-called Justice Department has turned into.

    For those who missed it, PoliticsTV has the bulk of the testimony here:

  3. Point of inquiry

    This all seems to point to the very obvious fact that much as he has done with the firing of the States Attorneys and other abuses of his office Alberto Gonzales, the top federal official next to the President charged with enforcing the law has in fact broken the very laws he was appointed to protect. Not only is this a sign that he has abused the office and therefore cannot continue to be Attorney General it also demonstrates that he should be criminally prosecuted as well and impeachment seems like a valid option.

    My other question though is does this mean that President Bush knowingly ordered Gonzales to break the law or coerced him to do so? Has the President broken the law? And if he has how can the Congress proceed to act against him?

    FYI I really don't care if its politically bad to impeach either the Attorney General or if evidence comes forward the President, it is the Constitutional responsibility of those in government and they should act on their responsibility regardless of the political consequences.

    • Have you written your rep asking for impeachment?

      I have written to my representative twice now asking him to impeach Gonzalez. I haven't gotten a response yet. If they get enough pressure from the people, I'm sure they will move on impeachment.

      • Who's your rep?

        I was considering writing mine (Markey) today -- I think I'll wait a day or two to see whether there's any quick developments in light of the Schumer/Feingold/Kennedy/Durbin letter.

    • To slice it a bit thin...

      ...when Speedy Gonzales went to Ashcroft's hospital room, he was not operating as AG.  He was operating as counsel for the president--an advocate for the office of the president, if you will.  He was not operating as attorney for the US Government, if you will, which he would have been if he had been AG.

      Now, as AG, he is not counsel for the president, he is operating attorney for the US government.

      A subtle but real distinction.

      And, yes, any government official can be impeached.  And, following impeachment, removed from office.  He can (almost) effectively be removed from office merely by cancelling the line item for his salary from the next budget.

  4. What happens now?

    I must confess I wonder why has Bush not dumped Gonzalez already, given the Republican opposition to the AG. 

    I keep wondering if the Administration worries that if they push him out, he could spill the beans on something even bigger....

    • Admin doesn't want a confirmation hearing

    • I thouroughly believe....

      ....the Gonzalez is a major piece of Bush's plan to attack Roe v. Wade as much as possible before he leaves office.  Call it a hunch.  Gonzalez will be on board with prosecuting doctors now that the partial birth abortion ban has been upheld.  I would bet the rent that the first indictment will come down before the end of the year.  If Gonzalez goes now that would throw a huge wrench in the works.

      • Maybe, but...

        I thouroughly believe the Gonzalez is a major piece of Bush's plan to attack Roe v. Wade as much as possible before he leaves office.  Call it a hunch.

        They will need to get a state to pass a law outlawing abortion.  They had their opportunity with South Dakota's ban, but the opponents of that law were smart enough not to go the judicial route, but instead to have the law repealed by initiative petition.  I don't know of any other state that has a similar law in the works, that might make it to the Supremes before the end of Bush's term.  So, as far as I can tell, that's a dead issue.

        Regarding the federal "partial birth abortion" ban, it appears that that might be resting on slim reeds.  If you read Thomas's concurring opinion in that case, you will find that he was essentially decrying the fact that the opponents of the law did not raise the issue of whether the federal government had the power under the constitution to enact such a ban.  It apparently was not raised anywhere at any level of the proceedings in that case--a stupid move, in my opinion--and, thus, he did not believe that he could decide the case on that basis.

        BTW, I am not a big fan of Thomas's jurisprudence, but he is not a stupid man, and he was exactly right in that case.  If a constitutional issue is not raised and argued in a particular case, it is not exactly clear that the Supremes should decide that issue.  What he did was to say to the next litigants--raise the issue and argue it.  There will be more litigation on the PBA law.

        • Why did they leave it up to the opponents?

          They had their opportunity with South Dakota's ban, but the opponents of that law were smart enough not to go the judicial route, but instead to have the law repealed by initiative petition.

          Why didn't they hire their own lawyer (and find some stooge client) right away to contest the ban?  Would the court have said that since there was a petition in the works, let's just wait to see what the outcome of the petition is?  Or wouldn't  AG Gonzalez say its wrong to vote on rights and they should decide this question in a court, uber-constitutionally, challenging the very putting of a right on the ballot?

  5. To heck with impeachment

    Why aren't these jackboot fetishists in prison?

  6. Where is the outrage?

    As our constitutional rights are relentlessly revoked by government edicts, who stands for the rights of Americans?  I've not seen the opposition coming up to protect our rights. 

    This was an excellent post.  Made my jaws tight.

    • Al-Qaeda

      I bet Al-Qaeda just loves reading these posts. How are we suppose to combat the threat of continued terroism against the US?

      The Goverment must use all means to determine threats against us. Wiretaps are needed in the War om Terror.

      Let's not take our eye off the target, Al-Qaeda. Many of us, including yours truly, believe the war in Iraq is a huge mistake, but let's not take our eyes off our real enemy.

      As the former CIA director said recently, we are surprised that there has not been a follow up attack on the US by Al-Qaeda. We must remain vigilant and not be side tracked by Iraq. The enemy will attack us again.

      • Wow

        "I bet Al-Qaeda just loves reading these posts."

        Yes, yes! That's what Al-Qaeda does--they blog! The Al-qaeda-o-sphere is astir upon reading BMG!

        • Of course.

          Who do you think pays me (in Celestial Virgin promissory notes) to press The Gay Agenda?  Specifically section 1 article B:  The Destruction of America via Equality.  The guys at a-Q headquarters know full well that the head of most Americans will spontaneously implode if they are required to live up to the letter and intent of the Constitution.

          • It's true

            And, by the way, bravo! Thanks for being a part of this wild, crazy train of thought which takes us from the Comey issue to marriage equality in just 4 short steps! (NSA-- Al-Qaeda-- blogosphere-- marriage equality).

            • --> same-sex conception

              See?  It's like I've been saying!  The Bush thugs are behind commercialized genetic engineering and eugenics and same-sex conception.  They are using the NSA, Al Qaeda, bloggers, and gays as pawns, often against each other, but always with confidence that they are closer to owning everyone's reproduction rights.

      • Thank you for saying what needs to be said.

        David et all do not realize that we are at war, and with a viscious enemy to boot

        • at war

          there will always be people who will fan the flames of fear as a method of popular control.  For example

          Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others ... are known to have left-wing associations. It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.

            That was from a 1965 sermon by Falwell, questioning the motives of the leaders of the civil rights movement (source).  The bogeyman was comunists then, it's islamic fundamentalists now.  Funny that such an indictment was delivered by an equally rabid religious fundamentalist.  Ain't foreshadowing cool?  Ain't political religiosity amazingly predictable?

        • What a stupid comment, Paul, even for you.

          According to your "reasoning," John Ashcroft also was unaware that "we are at war."

          • yeah - so? Ashcroft can be seen as clueless.

            Get real - in a post 9/11 world - we need to do everythingg we can. Why this blog is being monitored and mined right now probably.

            • Mined??

              Like, with explosives? What are you talking about?

              As for "doing everything we can", remember the old mantra of "working smarter, not harder"? Maybe we don't need to restrict every freedom under the sun in the hopes of catching the Keystone Kops Fort Dix Six...

        • Come on now

          Lets follow this logic.  "David does not relaize we're at war with a vicious enemy."  Does that mean that James Comey, John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller also didn't realize that we were at war when they refused to certify the legality of the wire tapping plan that Bush was pushing?  If there is ever a time to stand up and preserve our civil rights and liberties, it's now.  I've been so critical of Ashcroft and quite frankly I'm amazed that he had the guts to stand up to Bush's lap dogs (Andy and Alberto) when they came calling at his hospital bed.  We cheapen our Consitution and democracy when we walk away from out civil rights and liberties in the name of "fighting a war."  Paul, this sloppy, illogical rhetoric that you and conservatives are throwing around in an attempt to justify curtailing our freedoms is anti-American.  BTW, its "et al." 

      • Just to let you know...

        As the former CIA director said recently, we are surprised that there has not been a follow up attack on the US by Al-Qaeda.

        I am not surprised.  I'll put it bluntly.  I said five years ago that al Qaida pretty much "shot their wad" against the US with the attacks on the WTC.  They started out with the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania--which killed more Africans than Americans.  A couple of years later they attacked the USS Cole, killing a few Americans.  Then the spectacular attack on the WTC.  Theater--not nice theater, but theater, nonetheless. 

        And what could they do for an encore?  Blow up the Mall of America?  Who would care?  And I'm quite serious about that.  Low-level terrorist attacks aren't going to get much if any press.  And it's the press that the terrorists want.

    • Much ado about nothing?

      Fact is you never had any privacy on electronic voice.  Israeli intelligence can get anything they want on you by going through AMDOCS, the billing company owned by Israel.  This company controls all telecommunications billing in most countries.  They'd be fools not to use this information. Does this mean they are looking at you?  I doubt it.

      The other issue is that Americans give away their privacy every day.  Take a peek here

      Sure the politicians are sleazy, but how is this harming us?  Let's follow the things that hurt us. 

      • Let me get this straight...

        ... the entire justice department of a right wing government finds a program that invades your own privacy to be too illegal to sign off on,... but that's ok with you because a preznits gotta do what a preznits gotta do?

        There was a legal framework for surveillance and a compliant congress that showed over and over again a willingness to bend over backwards to produce whatever legislation the administration wanted they still couldn't keep from breaking the law.

        You can defend the necessity for whatever methods of prosecution of this "terror" war, but you can't seriously defend an administration that decides to ignore the law when they could practically write whatever law they wanted.

        Either they had such contempt for the law they didn't see a need to follow it or what they had in mind was so unthinkable that they were afraid that the most obscenely acquiescent congress this country has ever scene would balk at it.

        Either of the two scenarios merits, at a minimum, serious concern.  I find your indifference alarming.  I hope it is from merely being uninformed.

      • If we plant the seed, maybe a tree of freedom will grow.

        Maybe this is a small privacy matter in light of all our liberties that are at risk.  But it might be the the concern that opens the eyes of the sleeping public.  If the American people have to start regaining their rights, why not start here?

      • Not necessarily...

        Fact is you never had any privacy on electronic voice.  Israeli intelligence can get anything they want on you by going through AMDOCS, the billing company owned by Israel.

        ...encryption, you know.  And scrambling for voice transmissions.

        It would take the Mossad more than a few years to decrypt a message encrypted using even 128 bit encryption keys, much less 1024 bit encryption keys. PGP (Pretty good privacy provides the latter.

        • Nice buzzwords.


          • Oh, so, just let me know...

            ....just how is a billing agency supposed to figure out the substance of an encrypted or scrambled communication?  It is the substance* that is in issue, not the billing**.  If the billing agency cannot figure out the substance (within a reasonable period of time--decades, mae bee), the information contained in the communication is virtually worthless.

            *If the government cannot figure out the substance of messages, how can it determine whom to track?  Actually, I do know the answer to this one.  They get the identifying information via other means.  Something like...normal police work.

            BTW, I am extremely familiar with the "buzzwords."  Moreoever, I am familiar with the fact that pre-paid (no billing involved) communication devices are readily available.  Worldwide.  After the pre-paid minutes associated with one device are used up, the device can be discarded* and a new one acquired.

            ***Although the device can be reloaded, if the customer so desires.  But, if the device is discarded, the identifying indicia related to the device is--gone.

            So, your point is--what?

            As an aside, there was a funny story out of Germany about a decade ago relating to a fleeing criminal and a cell phone.  Apparently the fleeing criminal had his cell phone turned on, but did not realize that the police could track his movements as he drove from cell site to cell site--the cell sites do hand-offs, of course, so they know where to direct incoming calls.  He was apprehended fairly quickly.

            • the vast majority of communications is unencrypted.

              Voice communications can be encrypted.  A few government agencies use STU or the newer STE phones for encryption.  (They have to have one on each side.) For the rest of us, telephone calls are unencryted.  As for using disposable cell phones; tough to run a business or a household that way. 


      Who relentlessly wish to deprive me of my 2nd amendment rights. But that's OK, because I have NO RIGHT to enjoy my 2nd amendment right because, "I'm one of them."

      I'm always puzzled how "progressives" can justify to themselves that Rights under the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution are only applicable to those like minded souls.

      It a;; oils down to who's ox is being gored. Save your outrage for something worthwhile, like when the government orders that muslin prayer rooms be protected in our public schools. Already started to a degree in Wisconsin.(accomodating bathroom design for a protected religious group in a publicly subsidized state school)

      • $quot;muslin prayer rooms$quot;

        Personally, I've always preferred taffeta.

        (As I've noted before, typos are funny.)

      • I don't know whether to ROTFL or ROTFLMAO

        Save your outrage for something worthwhile, like when the government orders that muslin prayer rooms be protected in our public schools.

        Apparently, you haven't heard of the federal equal access law, which requires public schools to give equal access to all groups (religious, business, gay, or otherwise) if it grants access to any group.  The law was passed for the specific purpose of requiring public schools to require public schools to give access to Christian prayer groups to public school properties, but it has been used more often to give access to other groups.  Scientology, gay, and, yes, even Muslim.  The proponents of the equal access law should have been careful for what they wished for: it's obvious that they did not wish for that.

        And Christian groups have opposed the "equal access" of the other groups.  Sorry, "Christians," but equal means equal.

        BTW, if you want to have your 2d amendment rights, make sure that you are a member of the "well regulated" militia.  That is, of course, a state militia, not a roaming band of thugs, like more than a few of the pseudo-militias of yester-year..

        • I don't even own a firearm

          and my "muslins" are three hundred thread to to the inch. I apologize for the typos.

          Point being, all the outrage being expressed is a joke.If it was "your guy" screwing up on a daily basis , as does Seneor Presidante Gorge Bush, then the shoe would be on the other foot.

  7. Process questions

    Ashcroft remained in intensive care for over a week, during which time Comey was named Acting Attorney General.

    David or other:

    How does this work legally?

    1. I.e., does the President say to Ashcroft "Okay, until I say otherwise, you're not the AG, because you're ill." 

    2. Is this purely the President's judgment?  I.e., can he just write another piece of paper that says "Boom, as of 11pm tonight, you're AG again." 

    3. Given that Comey says Ashcroft WAS thinking clearly, even while gravely ill,  COULD the evil Gonzo-Card duo have produced a letter from Bush, saying "Ashcroft is AG again" and then legally had him sign off? 

    • Good questions, GGW,

      to which I don't know the answer.  My guess -- and this is nothing more than a guess -- is that, at least in this instance, Ashcroft himself named Comey Acting AG in light of his illness.  Whether that was done by written document, or simply by saying "Jim, you're AG until I get better," I have no idea.

      I also don't know whether the president can override the AG's decision to step aside in light of medical issues (sort of your question 3).  I sort of doubt it -- but it's an interesting question.

  8. I miss the judgement and reasonableness of Atty General Ashcroft

    I bet you never thought you would read that sentence and think to yourself "Yeah, me too!"

    • You're right about that one! ;-)

    • much like people being shocked

      that they are looking back wistfully at reagan.  by comparison to bush, even he looks good. 

    • Which goes to show that it would be prudent

      for many people to engage their brain housing group prior to engaging their oral receiver group.

      The bobastic outrage that was levelled on a daily basis and the howls demanding incarceration for Ashcroft has been tempered of late. Gee can you imagine that. Kinda like the mob demanding a crucifixion.

      I agree Gonzalez should be in the same jail cell as Bill Clinton, the alleged rapist and the convicted felon. Perjury is a felony isn't it?

      • As if it needed to be said again,

        Gonzales lied about things that matter.  Clinton didn't.  No, Clinton shouldn't have done what he did.  But for God's sake, let's try to get some perpective on what's important to the country and what isn't. 

        You Clinton-haters never cease to amaze me with your obsession about his sex life.

        • You don't get it.

          The man lied while under oath and got caught---like Tom Finneran. It makes no difference what he lied about, whether great or trivial, he lied under oath. Period. I could give a crap about his sex life. John Kennedy was screwing an East German spy. Who cares.

          Who makes the call on whether an act is a danger to our national security? Is it OK for our president to be a drunk, smoke dope, do drugs, have a bunch of affairs? What is accepatable behavior. How much drug use in the oval office is too much. What lies are OK and what lies are a threat to our country. How about launching military action on a third world country to take the heat off of an indescretion? If it's OK with you then maybe we can up the anty.

          • $quot;It makes no difference what he lied about$quot;

            So pathetic, MCRD.  So utterly, utterly pathetic.

            It is you who doesn't get it, pal.

      • Here's the difference for me

        Clinton's tawdry antics cheapened the office that he held, all for what?  a BJ?

        The present administration has undermined the fundamental, centuries-old institutions of the republic, and all for what, because they think Jesus wants WWIII?

        The conservatives, so-called, who are presently in charge have willfully abandoned the moral high ground that, since the founding of the republic has set us apart from our enemies.  They have willfully undermined the notion of individual liberty and personal responsibility that supposedly formed the ethos of their ideology.  All this to make us "safe" from terrorists, but which in fact have handed Osama everything in his wildest dreams on September 10.

        They have ground our military to the point where it can no longer respond to a crisis anywhere in the world.  They have created an Isalamist extremist factory in Iraq, and they no longer have the military capacity to deal with it.  They have vastly strengthened the most extreme elements in our most dangerous enemy, Iran, while systematically destroying any capability we have to counter an extremist Iran, either militarily or diplomatically.  They have, in a fit of childish pique, torpedoed the Western Alliance that kept the world relatively peaceful for 65 years, leaving us isolated at a time when we are under threat and militarily unprepared to cope with that threat.

        If a commander sets an objective for his subordinates, and then fails to provide the subordinates with the means to achieve that objective, the commander must either provide the means, or downscale the objective.  Failure to do either of things things is evidence of gross incompetence or evidence that the commander desired the failure from the outset.  Neither possibility is forgivable.

        The response to Ron Paul in the recent debate indicates that conservatism in the Republican party has ceased to exist, and that the party's core ideology is now no more than risible childish "hold me back!" chest thumping. 

  9. An observation...

    ...This is an excellent post.  We've just returned to the US from Germany and I'm picking up on the issues related here. 

    One thing that crossed my mind, regarding...

    ...Why resign?

    Why?  Because it is not only the honorable thing to do, it is also the duty of a fiduciary, which is what an AttyGen actually is, to do.  Actually, what you are relating in the post reminds me of the Nixon-era Saturday Night massacre.  Nixon wanted the Justice Department to fire Archibald Cox, the "special prosecutor," and the Atty Gen Elliot Richardson, and the Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus refused to do so, and resigned instead.  It fell instead to Robert Bork (remember him?) to fire Cox (and he did so, and that is why I have everafter loathed the creature).

    Comey did well by coming clean in his testimony, but he did not serve well by not having resigned immediately.

    BTW, Comey did not need to have a witness with him.  Recall that there are things like--tape recorders that would serve the purpose.  Cell phones, too, as Michael Richards discovered to his chagrin.

    Another BTW, if anyone wants to look at FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), which is in issue, it is at 50 USC 1801 et seq, which is available on the Cornell law school web site.  It is fairly explicit, and it is obvious that the NSA surveillance was outside the bounds of the act.

    • Why resign?

      I disagree with you.  Bush shows such distain for the public's view that I doubt he would have reacted to mass resignations from DOJ with anything other than new appointees who were willing to disregard the rule of law.  Comey did more good by staying on and standing up for the rule of law.  Sometimes it's better to stand and fight. 

  10. Specter's line of questioning not helpful

    I just got through the whole transcript, and another interesting aspect of it is Arlen Specter's attempt to spin the whole thing to salvage a few crumbs of dignity for the perpetrators.  Admittedly leading the witness, he was reduced to the following:

  11. Although the entire DOJ team would resign rather than certify that the [NSA wiretapping program] was legal, Specter highlighted that Comey would not definitively say it was illegal.
  12. Although Gonzo's appointment as AG -- by the president -- looks more and more like how Bush effectively disabled the DOJ's ability to enforce laws governing such things, Specter went to great lengths to make Bush seem like a white knight because he met privately with Bob Mueller of the FBI and told him to "do the right thing".
  13. Specter tried to dismiss the importance of the DOJ's position on the legality of the program by drawing out of Comey that -- although the DOJ had previously signed off on the program multiple times before they began to review its legality, and although both the White House and the DOJ viewed this as necessary -- there was technically no statutory requirement for their sign-off.
  14. Because nobody was fired or explicitly threatened, Specter tried to make it seem like there was no intimidation or pressure (later in Comey's testimony, he described how Patrick Philbin, who was in the hospital room with Ashcroft, Comey, Gonzales, and Card that night, was blocked from getting a promotion because of his involvement).
  15. GOP spear-carrier Specter's legalistic "little picture":  Based on a series of technicalities, nobody did anything wrong.  The big picture:  As clearly as ever, this is an administration whose inner circle has the lowest regard for the rule of law that anyone on the Judiciary Committee would admit to having ever seen.

  • That's not entirely accurate

    A bunch of folks got killed in the aspirin factory.

    A good historical read is the events from 1935 up to 12/7/41 in USA. USA/FDR very narrowly dodged the bullet. If the Japanese had held off for one more year, and Germany had persisted in their aggression(FDR was absolutely not going to intervene) then the entire course of world history would have change. But, things happened as they did and the world was saved from the nazis.

    It amazes me that the entire world stood by and watched as the jews were being systematically eliminated. I guess it exquisitely answers the question as to how far western society will allow a tyrant and madman to pursue murder and mayhem before they will take up arms to defend the defenseless. Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels knew that they could do just about anything before someone broke ranks and said enough is enough. Sadly, it was the Brits who stepped forward. Speaks volumes.


    • I'm sorry, but with this comment...

      ...you have lost all credibility.

      If the Japanese had held off for one more year, and Germany had persisted in their aggression(FDR was absolutely not going to intervene)...

      This is positively stupid.  The US had been intervening in both the Pacific theater and the European theater for years before 1941.  Although the American Firsrters didn't want that to happen.

      One of the reasons that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor was because the Americans were trying to stymie their access to oil and other resources necessary for their war machine in Southeast Asia.  And, in the Atlantic, the US Navy and merchant marine had been running an "under the radar" war against Germany.  Remember "lend-lease"?

      Just to remind you...

      It amazes me that the entire world stood by and watched as the jews were being systematically eliminated. I guess it exquisitely answers the question as to how far western society will allow a tyrant and madman to pursue murder and mayhem before they will take up arms to defend the defenseless.

      neither the US, UK, nor the USSR took up arms to "defend the defenseless."  Don't even try to re-write history.  And that's aside from the fact that Jews were not the only people who were murdered by Nazis or their collaborators--such as the Ustasha, and the RCCi (Roman Catholic Church, Inc.).

      • During the US occupation...

        ... of Japan the army conducted some field research into the Japanese culture.  One of the findings about why they attacked Pearl Harbor is that they thought there was a better than good chance we wouldn't fight back.

        Just some trivia.

        • That's not exactly what I've read regarding the Japanese militaary leadership, but...

          ...I haven't read everything.  Thank you for the information.

        • Why then

          the famous quote by Yamamoto about Pearl Harbor, in whatever iteration?

          • The study, as I understand it...

            ,... involved a survey of civilians.

            Yamamoto was the exception to the rule.  Yamamoto was a genius and he was reluctant to go to war.  Having spent considerable time in the US prior to heading up the navy, he had cultural insights into the US that the general populace lacked.  I understand he spent a weekend in retreat after having been ordered to draw up a plan to defeat the US navy.  He meditated on his orders and considered disobeying his emperor.  He had little respect for Tojo and the other warmongers in the government at the time.  (There is actually a story about him having pulled Tojo?s chair out before he sat down at a meeting.) 

            He ultimately (and with military foresight) came to the conclusion that he needed to use surprise and eliminate the US aircraft carriers.  Although he achieved the former he failed to do the latter during the Pearl Harbor strike, making that operation a tactical failure for the Japanese (no primary objectives achieved).  He desperately needed to accomplish those objectives because he figured that to have any chance of success in defeating the US overall, he had to accomplish it within 6 months or so,? but if it took a year or more, giving the sleeping giant time to awake, he anticipated a very likely defeat.

            All this information given with the caveat that I don't have my sources at my fingertips and I am but an armchair historian.

            • Maybe...

              The study, as I understand it involved a survey of civilians.

              I am unfamiliar with the referenced study, but I will merely point out two things.

              One, it has been mentioned elsewhere that amateurs expound on strategy, whereas professional military pay attention to logistics.  If you can't supply the troops, they can't do their work.  That was the profound failure of the Rumsfeld US Defense Department in regards Iraq, irrespective of the number of soldiers there. 

              Two, regarding civilians, I'll merely harken back to Hermann Goehring's fameous quotation, reproduced at the Urban Legends Referance Pages.  The reference to the civilian survey should be obvious.

  • And in this ring...

    Wow, from all sides.


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