Nine times the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the Bush Administration for the legal justification of its warrantless (and illegal) domestic spying program. Nine times. To no avail. In the end of June, in a bipartisan 13-3 vote, the committee asked a tenth time – and it issued subpoenas to the President, Vice President, Department of Justice, and National Security Council to put an end to the stonewalling.
Today at 2 PM is the deadline to comply with the request. (There is an unconfirmed rumor of an extension, but nothing definitive.) Few will be holding their breath. As Committee Chair Senator Patrick Leahy wrote in his cover letter with the subpoenas, “Our attempts to obtain information through testimony of administration witnesses have been met with a consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection. There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee.”
Indeed the materials requested have nothing to do with the operational details–nothing to make the administration cry “state secrets” privilege–simply the legal rationale behind the program.
If the Administration once again chooses the stonewalling route, the Senate Judiciary Committee should move to hold those individuals in contempt of Congress, just as the House Judiciary Committee is expected to do with regard to Harriet Miers. (Miers was ordered by President Bush not to appear before a committee investigating politicized federal investigations and prosecutions.) As he’s done several times before when confronted with the White House’s blatant disregard for the checks and balances at the core of our constitutional design, Judiciary Chair John Conyers cut to the heart of the issue, asking, “Are Congressional subpoenas to be honored or are they optional?”
This moment is an important one as small-d democrats look to repair our democracy and defend the constitution. As the ACLU writes in a message to President Bush and Vice President Cheney: “All the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know is your legal rationale for spying on Americans without warrants.”
Tell the President and Vice President you expect them to comply with these subpoenas and the rule of law. And if they don’t do it, demand that your Senators move to hold them in contempt of Congress.