Former deputy AG James Comey has quite a tale in today's NYT:
President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program after Attorney General John Ashcroft, Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. and other senior Justice Department aides all threatened to resign, a former deputy attorney general testified Tuesday.
Mr. Bush quelled the revolt over the program's legality by allowing it to continue without Justice Department approval, also directing department officials to take the necessary steps to bring it into compliance with the law, according to Congressional testimony by the former deputy attorney general, James B. Comey.
Mr. Comey, the former No. 2 official in the Justice Department, said the crisis began when he refused to sign a presidential order reauthorizing the program, which allowed monitoring of international telephone calls and e-mail of people inside the United States who were suspected of having terrorist ties. He said he made his decision after the department's Office of Legal Counsel, based on an extensive review, concluded that the program did not comply with the law. At the time, Mr. Comey was acting attorney general because Mr. Ashcroft had been hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery.
Mr. Comey said that on the evening of March 10, 2004, Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., then Mr. Bush's chief of staff, tried to bypass him by secretly visiting Mr. Ashcroft. Mr. Ashcroft was extremely ill and disoriented, Mr. Comey said, and his wife had forbidden any visitors.
Read the whole thing.
When you've finished reading the article, read Glenn Greenwald's commentary. After reviewing the details of Comey's testimony, Greenwald makes the following observation:
The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law. [...] But the more important issue here, by far, is that we should not have to speculate in this way about how the illegal eavesdropping powers were used. We enacted a law 30 years ago making it a felony for the government to eavesdrop on us without warrants, precisely because that power had been so severely and continuously abused. The President deliberately violated that law by eavesdropping in secret. [emphasis in original]
Greenwald also has a few questions:
Does this sound in any way like the behavior of a government operating under the rule of law, which believes that it had legal authority to spy on Americans without the warrants required for three decades by law? How can we possibly permit our government to engage in this behavior, to spy on us in deliberate violation of the laws which we enacted democratically precisely in order to limit how they can spy on us, and to literally commit felonies at will, knowing that they are breaking the law?
How is this not a major scandal on the level of the greatest presidential corruption and lawbreaking scandals in our country's history? Why is this only a one-day story that will focus on the hospital drama but not on what it reveals about the bulging and unparalleled corruption of this administration and the complete erosion of the rule of law in our country? And, as I've asked times before, if we passively allow the President to simply break the law with impunity in how the government spies on our conversations, what don't we allow?
If we had a functioning political press, these are the questions that would be dominating our political discourse and which would have been resolved long ago.