This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Turning the Corner

I have no idea whether or not 2006 will be the year the power of the despots in this country will be checked, but if it happens it will be due to people like James Comey who after only three weeks on the job as the number two man in the Justice Department went to John Ashcroft in December of 2003 and told him he had to recuse himself from the CIA leak investigation.

It was also James Comey who appointed his good friend, the godfather to his son, Patrick Fitzgerald as Special Counsel and gave him the power to do the job without interference.

According to the New York Times, it now appears that when John Ashcroft was hospitalized for a gall bladder operation in March of 2004, Andy Card and Abu Gonzales had to go his hospital bed and ask for approval of key parts of the warrantless wiretapping program because his acting deputy refused to certify it.

The deputy's name? James Comey.
With Mr. Ashcroft recuperating from gall bladder surgery in March 2004, his deputy, James B. Comey, who was then acting as attorney general, was unwilling to give his certification to crucial aspects of the classified program, as required under the procedures set up by the White House, said the officials, who asked for anonymity because the program is classified and they are not authorized to discuss it publicly.

That prompted two of President Bush's top aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now the attorney general - to make an emergency visit to George Washington University Hospital to review the program with Mr. Ashcroft during what aides have described as a difficult recovery, the officials said.

The White House and Mr. Ashcroft, through spokesmen, declined to comment Saturday on the emergency meeting. "As the president has stated, the intelligence activities that have been under way to prevent future terrorist attacks have been approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department," said Jeannie Mamo, a White House spokeswoman.

Accounts from other officials differed as to exactly what was said at the meeting at the hospital. Some officials indicated that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, was also reluctant to give his signoff to continuing with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about the program's legality and its operational controls.

It was unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to approve the program or whether the White House moved ahead without his concurrence. What is known is that in early 2004, about the time of the hospital meeting, the White House suspended parts of the surveillance program for several months and moved ahead with more stringent requirements on the National Security Agency on how the program was used, in part to guard against possible abuses.

The Justice Department's concerns appear to have led, at least in part, to the suspension, and it was the Justice Department that oversaw an audit conducted on the program.
Comey announced his resignation from the Justice Department in March 2005. And when BushCo. tried to appoint a Skull & Bones crony to oversee Fitzgerald, Comey did an end run around them and appointed the extremely ethical David Margolis to the task as his parting shot out the door.

Was Comey one of the whistleblowers? I have no idea. But on that high note of integrity we finish our last 2005 post on firedoglake. Thanks to everyone for an amazing first year.

(thanks to Wilson46201)