Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Who's running the Department of Justice? A man who was so eager to get reauthorization for a wiretapping program that the Department had determined was illegal that he went to the hospital room of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to get him to overrule the decision of his Deputy (and Acting Attorney General) James Comey.

The Ashcroft Justice Department was not exactly known for its respect for legal niceties. Let's not forget that this same Department issued the infamous 2002 "torture memo" that not only provided the narrowest possible definition of "torture" ("intense pain or suffering . . . equivalent to the pain . . . associated with . . . death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function") but also, incredibly, suggested that the anti-torture statute unconstitutionally infringed on the President's Commander-in-Chief power without even mentioning Congress's military powers in its analysis. These guys would say anything to justify what the President wanted. When they conclude that your wiretapping program is illegal, you'd better listen.

Instead of listening, Alberto Gonzales, then White House Counsel, went to John Ashcroft's hospital room. Ashcroft had been hospitalilzed with gallstone pancreatitis and was in GWU Hopsital's ICU, and he had transferred the powers of the Attorney General to his deputy, Comey. The two had agreed that they could not certify the wiretapping program's legality. When Comey told the White House, Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card went to Ashcroft's hospital bed with legal papers.

Bless Ashcroft's ailing heart. I never had much respect for him, but in this supreme crisis, when he was so ill he was in the intensive care unit, he not only turned down the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff and explained why they were wrong, but pointed at Comey and said, "But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney general." Gonzales and Card left and Card later claimed that they had just been there to wish Ashcroft well!

It's hard to think of anything so shameless since Newt Gingrich went to his wife's hospital bed to work on their divorce.

And Alberto Gonzales, the man who was so eager to violate our rights that he went to the hospital to try to get an ailing Ashcroft to overrule his Deputy and Office of Legal Counsel, is now Attorney General of the United States. No wonder the whole Department is on life support.

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