Feature

Surveillance

Did the president break the law?

The story sounds 'œlike something from Holly­wood, not Washington,' said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. On the night of March 10, 2004, White House authorization for a National Security Agency electronic surveillance program secretly instituted after the 9/11 attacks was about to expire. The Justice Department had reviewed the program—which monitored calls and e-mails into the U.S. from suspected terrorists outside the country, without court warrants—and had warned it might not be legal. Deputy Attorney General James Comey also believed the program violated the law, and refused to sign off on it. In desperation, then'“White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card rushed to a Washington hospital where then'“Attorney General John Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering from gallbladder surgery. They pressured Ashcroft to sign a letter proclaiming the spying program legal. At this point, Comey testified before a Senate committee last week, a wan Ashcroft 'œlifted his head off the pillow' and refused to sign. 'œI was very upset,' said Comey, who left the administration last year. 'œI thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.'

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