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|James Comey testifies (AP)|
Call it another classic example of an out-of-control Presidential administration trampling the Constitution into the dust. It took the personal intervention of President George W. Bush in 2004 to circumvent the law, ignore the protests of his own Attorney General, and continue an illegal eavesdropping program that spied on Americans.
Even then Attorney General John Ashcroft knew what the President wanted to do was illegal and threatened to resign over the White House actions.
But Bush, as he has done so many times before and enabled by administration yes man Alberto Gonzales, put himself and his agenda above the law and proceeded, knowing that he could ride roughshod over the Constitution, stare down a cowardly Congress and ignore the inevitable court decisions that would fact his acts unconstitutional.
Writes David Johnston of The New York Times:
President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agencyâ€™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 programâ€™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.
Although a conflict over the program had been disclosed in The New York Times, Mr. Comey provided a fuller account of the 48-hour drama, including, for the first time, Mr. Bushâ€™s role, the threatened resignations and a race as Mr. Comey hurried to Mr. Ashcroftâ€™s hospital sickbed to intercept White House officials, who were pushing for approval of the N.S.A. program.
Describing the events as â€œthe most difficult of my professional career,â€ Mr. Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its inquiry into the dismissal of federal prosecutors and the role of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Several lawmakers wanted to examine Mr. Gonzalesâ€™s actions in the N.S.A. matter, when he was White House counsel, and cited them to buttress their case that he should resign.
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 departmentâ€™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.