White House pressed Ashcroft to recertify NSA surveillance program: ex-deputy AG

White House pressed Ashcroft to recertify NSA surveillance program: ex-deputy AG

[JURIST] Former US Deputy Attorney General James Comey [official profile] testified [transcript] before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that in March 2004, in response to Comey's reservations about reauthorizing the controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card [official profiles] attempted to pressure the hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile; JURIST news archive] to reauthorize the program. Comey, who was acting attorney general during Ashcroft's hospitalization, has not previously discussed the incident in public, which was first reported in early-2006 by the New York Times.

In February of last year, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], under Gonzales, sent a letter to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) seeking to dissuade the committee [JURIST report] from calling Ashcroft and Comey to testify before the panel, saying that their testimony would provide no new information on the NSA warrantless surveillance program. AP has more.