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Cheney Personally Pushed
Illegal Wiretap Program

June 7, 2007 (EIRNS)—Written testimony from a former top Justice Department official shows that Vice President Dick Cheney was personally pushing for extension of the domestic wiretap program, which all the top leadership of the Justice Department (DOJ) had found to be illegal.

According to supplemental testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, he and other top DOJ officials met with White House officials on March 9, 2004; in that meeting, Cheney and Cheney's legal counsel David Addington attempted to get Comey to approve the extension of the wiretap program. The next day, then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales was dispatched to the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft; the critically-ill Ashcroft still refused to reauthorize the program.

Comey's written submission also states that Cheney personally blocked the promotion of another DOJ official, Patrick Philbin, who also opposed the continuation of the illegal program. After the dramatic hospital confrontration, President Bush went ahead and re-authorized it anyway, causing Comey, Philbin, and about 30 top DOJ officials to threaten to resign.

Associated Press reports that Comey states that Cheney warned Gonzales that he would oppose the promotion of Philbin. According to Comey's account, when Gonzales was considering promoting Philbin to become the principal deputy Solicitor General, "the Vice President's office blocked that appointment."

Commenting on Comey's testimony, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, according to the Washington Post, "The Vice-President's fingerprints are all over the effort to strong-arm Justice on the NSA program."