Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Washington Post, in two articles adapted from a book coming out soon, provides us with a fascinating portrait of the inside struggle over the warranteless surveillance program that ensued between various members of the Bush administration in early 2004. Although the story of threatened resignations over the program has been out for awhile, the Post provides considerably more detail of the role of significant actors and just how close the administration came to a meltdown before Bush backed down and authorized changes to the program. Two things are stunning about this story. One, that President Bush was shielded until the last minute by Cheney and his staff from the news that members of the DOJ were going to resign in protest; he simply was unaware of the magnitude of the problem on his hands. And second, that we still do not know what the NSA was doing that was so bad that the head of the FBI, the chief of the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ, the deputy Attorney General, the general counsels of the FBI and the CIA, among others, were willing to pack up rather than continue participating in the program (it is especially shocking in light of what they eventually did authorize.) Such a mass resignation would have been unprecedented in American political history, but it was only a matter of days from happening. What were they doing? And when will we know?