A federal judge appeared reluctant Friday to investigate the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes while the Justice Department is conducting its own inquiry.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy is considering whether to delve into the matter and, if so, how deeply. The Bush administration is urging him to back off while it investigates.
“Why should the court not permit the Department of Justice to do just that?” Kennedy asked at a court hearing.
President Bush, successful in forcing the Democratic Congress to bend to his will, complained that lawmakers had wasted time and taxpayers’ money. His aggressive stand set a confrontational tone for Bush’s final year in the White House.
Bush used a year-end news conference Thursday to scold lawmakers for stuffing 9,800 special-interest projects into a $550 billion spending measure. He directed his budget director to explore how to erase what Bush considers wasteful spending.
The Bush administration has made its position clear in legal filings and now gets a chance to say it to a judge in open court: Hold off on inquiring about the destruction of CIA videotapes that showed suspected terrorists being interrogated.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy ordered the hearing Friday over the objection of the Justice Department after lawyers raised questions about the possibility that other evidence also might have been destroyed.
Kennedy, appointed to the trial court by President Clinton, is considering whether to delve into the matter and, if so, how deeply.
Under a subpoena threat, the CIA is expected to quickly begin turning over to Congress documents related to the destruction of videotapes showing the harsh interrogation of two terror suspects.
The agency could begin producing the material as early as Thursday, according to senior intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of ongoing investigations into the destruction of the tapes in 2005.
The White House on Wednesday defended its response to disclosures about the CIA’s destruction of videotapes that showed harsh interrogations of two terrorism suspects.
The New York Times reported that at least four White House lawyers participated in discussions with the CIA between 2003 and 2005 about whether the tapes should be destroyed.
The Times said the lawyers’ participation showed White House officials were more extensively involved than the Bush administration has acknowledged.
Thick smoke billowed from a fire Wednesday in Vice President Dick Cheney’s suite of offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
Cheney’s office, known for its historical furnishings and ornate decorations, was damaged by smoke and water from fire hoses, officials said. There was concern about water damage to the floor, made of mahogany, white maple and cherry and considered to be very delicate.
The adjacent office of the vice president’s political director, Amy Whitelaw, was heavily damaged by fire, said Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride.
A federal judge has taken a significant step in dismantling the wall of secrecy the Bush administration has needlessly built around the White House.
Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that White House visitors logs were public records and that the public had a right to see them.
The logs, maintained by the Secret Service, had been public until 2006, when the Bush administration, which adheres to the principle that its business is nobody’s but its own, declared that the logs were presidential records and thus exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under the doctrine of executive privilege.
White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled Monday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public records laws and let them keep their guests a secret.
The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration, which has fought the release of records showing visits by prominent religious conservatives.
President Bush appealed to Congress on Saturday to give him real cash for the war, not just a pledge to fund the troops.
“A congressional promise — even if enacted — does not pay the bills,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “It is time for Congress to provide our troops with actual funding.”
The broadcast is the president’s latest shot in a battle the White House is having with Congress over spending bills.
President George W. Bush’s foreign policy is in free fall and puts the nation’s security at risk, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told a German magazine on Sunday.
Bolton, who was a leading hawk in the U.S. administration and favored a tough stance against Iran, North Korea and Iraq, told the Der Spiegel weekly that Bush needed to rein in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.