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Official: Cheney Urged Wiretaps

Cheney allegedly disagreed with Justice officials on the legality of surveillance.
Cheney allegedly disagreed with Justice officials on the legality of surveillance. (By Lauren Victoria Burke -- Associated Press)

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the surveillance program "was always subject to rigorous oversight and review. . . . We have acknowledged that there have been disagreements about other intelligence activities, as one would expect."

Democrats have criticized Gonzales for testifying last year that there were no "serious disagreements" about the program.

According to Comey, the hospital visit was preceded by a March 9, 2004, meeting at the White House on the Justice Department objections. It was attended by Cheney; Gonzales; Card; Cheney's counsel then, David S. Addington; and others, Comey said.

Comey also named eight Justice Department officials who were prepared to quit if the White House had not backed down, including FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, current U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of Alexandria and Jack Goldsmith, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel and led an internal legal review of the surveillance program.

Comey said that the review "focused on current operations during late 2003 and early 2004, and the legal basis for the program." He declined to answer detailed questions about the program or the review, citing restrictions on classified information.

Bush confirmed the existence of the surveillance effort after news reports in December 2005, saying it was authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and was vital to protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. The program has since been put under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees clandestine eavesdropping in the United States.

Staff writer Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.


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