On June 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena Justice Department documents regarding the NASA's warrantless surveillance program, including any legal opinions the Bush administration has received concerning the surveillance program. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy issued a statement following the vote in which he said, "Why has this Administration been so steadfast in its refusal? Deputy Attorney General Comey's account suggests that some of these documents would reveal an Administration perfectly willing to ignore the law. Is that what they are hiding?"
The authorization comes after the Committee's ninth formal document request in 18 months went unfulfilled by the Justice Department. On May 21, Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Arlen Specter wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to demand that he provide documents containing analysis or opinions regarding the legal basis for the surveillance program. In their letter, the senators stated that Gonzales has "rebuffed all requests for documents and your answers to our questions have been wholly inadequate and, at times, misleading."
The letter came a week after the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Comey testified that he had informed the White House that the Justice Department found no legal basis in the ongoing surveillance program, and that the program was certified over the objections of the Justice Department.
Following Comey's testimony, EPIC, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Security Archive urged a federal district court to compel the Justice Department to disclose documents about the NSA surveillance program. EPIC had previously filed FOIA requests with the NSA and the Justice Department just hours after the New York Times first reported on the warrantless surveillance program in December 2005. When the agencies failed to comply with the FOIA deadline of 20 working days, EPIC filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department to compel disclosure. The case was consolidated with lawsuits initiated by American Civil Liberties Union and the National Security Archive. In March 2006, U.S. District judge Kennedy granted a Justice Department request for an extension of the disclosure deadline.
Text of subpoena authorization and statement of Sen. Leahy:
Letter from Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Arlen Specter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance "Legality of NSA's Secret Eavesdropping Program Is Suspect and Cost is Unknown":
EPIC's page on Domestic Surveillance:
EPIC's FOIA work on the NSA's warrantless surveillance program:
EPIC's page on FISA: