Subpoenas for the White House, Cheney's office

The Senate Judiciary Committee demands documents on the president's warrantless surveillance program.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 27, 2007 6:02PM (EDT)

Frustrated by the White House's repeated refusal to turn over documents voluntarily, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy today issued subpoenas for documents related to the president's warrantless domestic surveillance program. The targets of the subpoenas: the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Department of Justice and the National Security Council.

The subpoenas demand that the administration turn over documents on both the supposed legal justification for the warrantless surveillance program and the internal administration process that led to the authorization of it. The latter category of documents, of course, would include any references to the visit Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card once paid to John Ashcroft's hospital room to get the ailing attorney general to sign off on the warrantless surveillance program.

"There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this Committee," Leahy writes in a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding. "The administration cannot thwart the Congress's conduct of its constitutional duties with sweeping assertions of secrecy and privilege."

In an effort to head off the inevitable argument from the White House, Leahy notes that his committee "seeks no intimate operational facts, and we are willing to accommodate legitimate redactions of the documents we seek to eliminate reference to these details."

The Judiciary Committee approved the subpoenas on a bipartisan, 13-3 vote, and Leahy says he has issued them after consultation with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Espionage Patrick J. Leahy D-vt.