Specter and Leahy Send Letter To White House
Request Access To Warrantless Surveillance Documents In Advance Of Judiciary Panel's Consideration Of FISA Bill
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today sent a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding again requesting access to documents relevant to the Committee's upcoming consideration of legislation to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The letter renews Judiciary Committee requests that have long gone unmet for documents relevant to the legal justification of the Administration's warrantless electronic surveillance program, termed by the White House as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The Judiciary Committee on June 27 issued subpoenas for documents related to the program's legal basis. At the White House's request, Leahy extended the deadline for fulfillment of the subpoenas from July 18 to August 20, but the White House also missed the later deadline. The Administration has not yet provided documents to the Judiciary Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the legislation and is expected to consider a bill in the weeks ahead.
The text of the letter follows.
October 22, 2007
Mr. Fred Fielding
Counsel to the President
The White House
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Fielding:
Since the existence of the President's secret wiretapping program became public in December 2005, the Judiciary Committee has been seeking information on the legal justifications for conducting such surveillance outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. We have done so through oral and written requests and by conducting oversight hearings. Former Attorney General Gonzales was asked about these matters. The lack of satisfaction with his responses led to further investigations, including the ongoing probe by the Justice Department's Inspector General. In light of the Administration's failure to respond fully, the Committee was prepared in November 2006 to consider subpoenas to telecommunication companies. Those subpoenas were not issued at that time, however.
After our repeated requests did not yield the information the Committee requested, the Committee proceeded in June to authorize subpoenas for documents related to the legal justification for the Administration's warrantless wiretapping program and to serve those subpoenas upon the Administration.
You have now had more than ample time to collect and process the relevant documents. Responsive information to those subpoenas is long overdue. You have made commitments to provide responsive information over the last several months and even recently, but no such information has yet been provided.
Instead, we read that a White House spokesperson has now conditioned the production of information on prior Senate agreement to provide retroactive immunity from liability for communications carriers. That is unacceptable and would turn the legislative process upside down. If the Administration wants our support for immunity, it should comply with the subpoenas, provide the information, and justify its request. As we have both said, it is wrongheaded to ask Senators to consider immunity without their being informed about the legal justifications purportedly excusing the conduct being immunized. Although the two of us have been briefed on certain aspects of the President's program, this cannot substitute for access to the documents and legal analysis needed to inform the legislative decisions of the Committee as a whole.
By letter dated October 5, 2007, your office committed to assembling the documents responsive to our subpoenas by today's date. We expect the commitments of your office to take priority over any White House comments to the media. Accordingly, we urge your compliance with the Committee subpoenas and other information requests without further delay. We can discuss precise arrangements for the production of and access to the documents, but they should be provided in a manner that permits them to be reviewed and considered by all Members of the Committee and appropriate Committee staff.
PATRICK LEAHY ARLEN SPECTER
Chairman Ranking Member