"By bringing in former Deputy Attorney General James Comey for a little-publicised appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, the Democrats have dramatically changed the tenor of the department of justice (DOJ) scandal. No longer is it a debate whether nine US attorneys were fired for proper or improper reasons. Now, it's a question of the lengths to which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will go to serve the interests of the administration.
What more do you want? A high-speed car racing through Washington DC, law enforcement readying for conflict, the showdown in the hospital room, and the heroic effort on Ashcroft's part to withstand the bad guys' ploy. In the end, the good guys won and forced Bush to accept changes to the program to bring it back into accordance with the Constitution - though not before many of DOJ's top officials threatened to resign.
Which would all make for a classical Hollywood happy ending, if it weren't for the fact that one of the bad guys, Alberto Gonzales, is currently the nation's top law enforcement officer."
"Secondly, why did Mrs. Ashcroft blow the whistle to Ashcroft's chief of staff, who in turn blew the whistle to Comey? Did Ashcroft tell her to? Did all these folks anticipate that something like this might happen and already have some idea of what their response would be if it did happen? Cause not for nuthin' folks, but Comey seemed to have a pretty well developed rapid response ready to go on only seconds of notice.
Why did Director Muller immediately understand why he was being pulled out of a dinner party and not hesitate to get on the road at once? Why did he feel the need to telephone the FBI agents that were in Comey's security detail and order them "not to allow [Comey] to be removed from the room"? Hells bells! What were they expecting to do, have a shootout in a hospital corridor? OK, maybe the feebies were just supposed to be like bouncers at a bar?
Also, before Comey even leaves the hospital Card already knows about possible wholesale resignations at DOJ? Again, it sounds like there were events that led up to this that were sufficient for people to have time to make those kinds of life altering decisions and for word to get around. There has to be more here."
"The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law.* Digby:
Recall that the only federal court to rule on this matter has concluded that the NSA program violated both federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and although that decision is being appealed by the Bush administration, they are relying largely on technical arguments to have it reversed (i.e., standing and "state secrets" arguments) and -- as has been true for the entire case -- are devoting very little efforts to arguing that the program was actually legal or constitutional.
Yet even once Bush knew that both Aschcroft and Comey believed the eavesdropping was illegal, he ordered it to continue anyway.
What more glaring and clear evidence do we need that the President of the United States deliberately committed felonies, knowing that his conduct lacked any legal authority? And what justifies simply walking away from these serial acts of deliberate criminality? At this point, how can anyone justify the lack of criminal investigations or the appointment of a Special Counsel? The President engaged in extremely serious conduct that the law expressly criminalizes and which his own DOJ made clear was illegal.
Comey and Mueller were clearly both operating on the premise that Card and Gonzales were basically thugs. Indeed, Comey said that when Card ordred him to the White House, Comey refused to meet with Card without a witness being present, and that Card refused to allow Comey's summoned witness (Solicitor General Ted Olson) even to enter Card's office. These are the most trusted intimates of the White House -- the ones who are politically sympathetic to them and know them best -- and they prepared for, defended themselves against, the most extreme acts of corruption and thuggery from the President's Chief of Staff and his then-legal counsel (and current Attorney General of the United States).
Does this sound in any way like the behavior of a government operating under the rule of law, which believes that it had legal authority to spy on Americans without the warrants required for three decades by law? How can we possibly permit our government to engage in this behavior, to spy on us in deliberate violation of the laws which we enacted democratically precisely in order to limit how they can spy on us, and to literally commit felonies at will, knowing that they are breaking the law?
How is this not a major scandal on the level of the greatest presidential corruption and lawbreaking scandals in our country's history? Why is this only a one-day story that will focus on the hospital drama but not on what it reveals about the bulging and unparalleled corruption of this administration and the complete erosion of the rule of law in our country? And, as I've asked many times before, if we passively allow the President to simply break the law with impunity in how the government spies on our conversations, what don't we allow?
If we had a functioning political press, these are the questions that would be dominating our political discourse and which would have been resolved long ago."
"I have believed from the get-go that this surveillance was being used for political purposes. The FISA court is a rubber stamp court that will allow virtually anything that could remotely be construed as necessary for national security. After 9/11 they would have been even more lenient. And if they weren't, the administration could easily have gone to the Republican congress and requested changes to the law and they would have gotten it.
My suspicion has always been that there was some part of this program --- or an entirely different program --- that included spying on political opponents. Even spying on peace marchers and Greenpeace types wouldn't seem to me to be of such a substantial departure from the agreed upon post 9/11 framework that it would cause such a reaction from the top brass, nor would it be so important to the president that he would send Gonzales and Card into the ICU to get Ashcroft to sign off on it while he was high on drugs.
After what we now know about the politicization of the DOJ by Karl Rove himself, this seems even more obvious to me.
After all, as Greenwald pointed out in his post, it's awfully odd that in all these meetings, the FBI was involved but the NSA wasn't. The FBI does domestic surveillance. Why were they involved in this at all?"
This is the real heart of the Comey story -- What happened between September 2001 and October 2003, before Comey and Goldmsith came aboard? Just how radical were the Administration's legal judgments? How extreme were the programs they implemented? How egregious was the lawbreaking?"I have a bunch of questions about some of the assumptions that people seem to be making here - including: Do we know that this started after 911?
See Comey here (20mins) - it's stunning.