June 28, 2007

Whitehouse Statement on Subpoenas for Bush Administration Over Warrantless Wiretapping

Rhode Island Senator Voted to Authorize Subpoenas Last Week

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) commented today on the decision by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to subpoena the Bush White House for documents and other information on the administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

Whitehouse serves on the Judiciary Committee and voted last week to authorize the subpoenas.

“At every turn, this administration has tried to evade its responsibility to tell the truth – the whole truth – to this Congress and the American people,” Whitehouse said. “If the Bush administration believes it can operate entirely outside the rule of law and not be held accountable, it is mistaken.”

The committee is seeking materials on the administration’s legal justification for the program, documents concerning the shutting down of an investigation by a Justice Department internal watchdog office concerning the surveillance, and agreements between the executive branch and telecommunications companies concerning liability for providing information to aid in surveillance efforts.

Testifying before the committee last month, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey described a late-night confrontation over the program’s legality at the hospital bedside of the ailing, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. According to Comey, former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who now is serving as Attorney General, tried to persuade Ashcroft to grant Justice Department approval for the wiretapping effort even though Comey, who was exercising Ashcroft’s responsibilities during his illness, had rejected the request. Ashcroft refused to sign off, but it appears that wiretapping continued for some time without the requisite legal authorization by D.O.J.


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