WASHINGTON – A Senate committee investigating the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program issued subpoenas Wednesday ordering the White House to turn over documents related to the eavesdropping effort, escalating a legal showdown between Congress and the Bush administration.
The Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas were delivered to the offices of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, the national security adviser and the Justice Department. They demanded copies of internal documents about the program’s legality and agreements with telecommunications companies that participated in the program.
Lawmakers said that their aim is to understand and reconstruct the administration’s internal debate about the program’s legality, an aim that White House officials have resisted.
“This committee has made no fewer than nine formal requests to the Department of Justice and to the White House, seeking information and documents about the authorization of and legal justification for this program,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in letters delivered with the subpoenas. “All requests have been rebuffed.”
The White House offered no word on whether it will turn over the documents by the committee’s July 18 deadline. “We’re aware of the committee’s action and will respond appropriately,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “It’s unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation.”
Leahy also formally asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Wednesday to investigate whether Brett Kavanaugh made false statements under oath last year, during his confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Kavanaugh, an associate counsel at the White House while legal arguments were crafted to defend the administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, told the Judiciary Committee that he “was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.”