Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You Can't Just Say 'GFY' to Leahy And Get Away With It. Or Can You?

I'm sure Cheney, et al., are quaking in their boots now.

A leading Democrat threatened on Monday to pursue contempt charges against the White House next month over its response to a subpoena for internal documents on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program.

"Time is up," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We've waited long enough."

Mr. Leahy's comments ratcheted up the battle between Congressional Democrats and the White House over access to secret documents on the legal underpinnings of the eavesdropping program, which authorized the N.S.A. to listen in without a court warrant on Americans’ international communications.

Nearly two months ago, the Senate voted to subpoena the White House and the Bush administration for access to the documents as part of its investigation into the program.

The White House, in a letter to Mr. Leahy on Monday, said it had identified a number of classified documents that appeared to fall under the subpoena but it said the documents could be covered by a claim of executive privilege. The White House asked for more time to research the issue.

"It remains our goal to avoid a conflict between the branches on this important issue of national security," the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, said in the letter.

But Mr. Leahy made clear that his patience was running out. With Congress on its August break, he returned to Washington and held a news conference announcing that the White House had failed to meet the Monday deadline he had set for complying with the subpoena.

"Follow the law, and don't act like you're above the law," Mr. Leahy told reporters in remarks aimed at the White House. "Go ahead and answer the subpoena."

Leahy also made known one of the reasons that the GOP-led 109th Congress refused to investigate the NSA scandal:

The Senate Judiciary Committee in the conservative-led 109th Congress, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) also attempted to ask questions about the program’s legal justifications. But Vice President Cheney personally barred him from issuing subpoenas:

"In fact, we were about to issue subpoenas then and one of the senators came to our meeting and said that the vice president had met with the Republican senators and told them they were not allowed to issue subpoenas.

"Not quite sure that's my understanding of the separation of powers, but it seemed to work at that time."

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