Citing Bush Statement that Such Hearings are 'Good for Democracy', Ranking Minority Member of House Judiciary Extends Invitation
Former Deputy AG, Ardent Administration Defender, Architect of Torture Memos, John Yoo Also Called to Testify
In response to George W. Bush's statement yesterday that hearings on the NSA program are "good for democracy," Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), on behalf of the minority members of the U.S. House Judiciary committee, has today sent invitations to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo to testify at planned hearings next Friday on the matter of warrentless NSA spying on United States citizens.
In the letter to Gonzales, obtained by The BRAD BLOG, Conyers quotes from Bush's comments yesterday at a Town Hall Forum in Kentucky in apparent support of such hearings (full letters to both Gonzales and Yoo posted at bottom of this article):
I would note that, just this past Wednesday, the President stated his support for this type of congressional review of the National Security Agency program. He stated, “There will be a lot of hearings and talk about that, but that's good for democracy – just so long as the hearings, as they explore whether or not I have the prerogative to make the decision I made doesn't tell the enemy what we're doing.” The purpose of our inquiry is precisely that, to explore whether the President possesses the constitutional or statutory power to authorize the surveillance he did.
Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkley has been an ardent defender of the Bush Administration's unrestrained exercise of Executive power in secretly monitoring United States citizens via warrantless NSA wiretaps. He is also reportedly the architect, along with Gonzales, of several controversial Administration positions concerning their right to torture and the notion that prisoners of war in Afghanistan and elsewhere did not fall under the protections of the Geneva Convention.
The congressional hearings are scheduled for next Friday by Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
In a statement to The BRAD BLOG, Conyers discussed his strong belief in Congressional oversight of the Executive branch despite unwillingness of members of Bush's own party to do so.
"It is imperative that we do everything we can to investigate abuses by the Bush Administration, whether the Majority is willing to or not," he told us. "Last time we held hearings on the Downing Street Documents, we were forced to the basement, but that didn't stop our message and the message for more than 500,000 Americans from getting out."
Conyers and other Democrats held hearings last June on the so-called "Downing Street Documents", which revealed the Bush Administration had planned to use military power in Iraq long before they had admitted as much to either Congress or the American people.
Those hearings, carried live on CSPAN, were followed by Conyers' hand-delivery of more than 500,000 signatures from Americans, demanding answers about those top-secret British memos from the White House.
The Democrats have once again requested a Capital Building Hearing room from the Republicans, who control scheduling of such rooms. They have yet to hear back as to wether they will be granted one or not for next Friday's hearings.
Scheduled to testify at the hearings so far are: Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General under Reagan, Jonathon Turley, Professor of law, George Washington Univ. Law School, Jeffrey H. Smith, former CIA General Counsel and Caroline Frederickson of the ACLU.
Smith, it was revealed by an ABC News report hours ago, has sent a 14-page memo to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence countering the notion that Bush had legal authority to order warrantless wiretaps on U.S. citizens. Smith avers that "it is not credible that the 2001 authorization to use force provides authority for the president to ignore the requirements of FISA."
That memo, not previously released with ABC's report, can be downloaded here [PDF].
The complete letters to Gonzales and Yoo follow...
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