House Democrats Want to See the Legal Opinions Bush Relied On for Warrantless Wiretapping

Brian Zick

Jame Risen for the NY Times reports: Senior House Democrats threatened Thursday to issue subpoenas to obtain secret legal opinions and other documents from the Justice Department related to the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program. If the Democrats take that step, it would mark the most aggressive action yet by Congress in its oversight of the wiretapping program and could set the stage for a constitutional showdown over the separation of powers. The subpoena threat came after a senior Justice Department official told a House judiciary subcommittee on Thursday that the department would not turn over the documents because of their confidential nature. But the official, Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel, did not assert executive privilege during the hearing. (…) At the same time, the Bush administration is seeking new legislation to expand its wiretapping powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Democratic lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have argued that they do not want to vote on the issue without first seeing the administration’s legal opinions on the wiretapping program. “How can we begin to consider FISA legislation when we don’t know what they are doing?” asked Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, who heads the subcommittee.

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