– U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today condemned the White House for not releasing documents related to the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
In June, the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan vote of 13-3 issued subpoenas for documents related to the program from the White House, Office of the Vice President, Department of Justice (DOJ) and National Security Council.
For more than five years, the Bush Administration intercepted conversations of Americans in the United States without warrants and without following the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The subpoenas were issued for documents explaining the legal justification for the domestic surveillance program.
In May, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony from former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about strong White House pressure to convince Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop the DOJ’s objections to the wiretap program.
At the time Attorney General Ashcroft was in intensive care recovering from surgery when he was visited by then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and urged to approve the program.
Attorney General Ashcroft declined to do so, and Gonzales reauthorized the program without Justice Department approval.
In early August, Senator Cardin voted against legislation requested by President Bush that gave the Attorney General more power to conduct warrantless wiretapping, and which also weakened the ability of both Congress and the FISA Court to oversee this intelligence program.
The legislation sunsets in six months, and this fall the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings and consider legislation to strengthen oversight of this program.
Senator Cardin issued the following statement:
“We are a nation of laws and no one is above the law, including the President or Vice President.
The Congress and the American people have a right to know the extent of this warrantless wiretap program and how it was initiated.
I am very concerned that the FISA law was disregarded by the Administration and I want to ensure that we put an end to this type of abuse,” said Senator Cardin.