The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday issued subpoenas to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the Justice Department after what the panel’s chairman called “stonewalling of the worst kind” of efforts to investigate the National Security Agency’s policy of wiretapping without warrants.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the committee, said the subpoenas are for documents that explain the White House's legal theories on why the wiretaps were legal, as well as for evidence of internal dispute on legal justification, and information about the government's relationship with major telecommunications companies.
Leahy said the administration had shown a “consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection.”
“It’s unacceptable,” Mr. Leahy said. “It is stonewalling of the worst kind.”
Congress had largely back off of investigating the warantless tapping story. Then came testimony from former deputy attorney general James Comey, who described an angry confrontation between Justice Dept. and White House officials at the bedside of ailing AG John Ashcroft.
“The Comey testimony moved this front and center,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. “Alarm bells went off. His testimony made it clear that there had been an effort to circumvent the law.”The committee vote in favor of issuing subpoenas was 13-3 with three Republicans voting in favor. In an even more pressing confrontation, the White House has categorically refused to provide documents related to the firing of US Attorneys, so a constitutional crisis may finally be in the works.