COMEY’S TESTIMONY….Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey is on Capitol Hill today testifying about his run-ins with the White House over the NSA’s domestic spying program back in 2004. For those interested, here is Newsweek’s account written last year:

There was one catch: the secret program had to be reapproved by the attorney general every 45 days. It was [Jack] Goldsmith’s job to advise the A.G. on the legality of the program. In March 2004, John Ashcroft was in the hospital with a serious pancreatic condition. At Justice, Comey, Ashcroft’s No. 2, was acting as attorney general….Goldsmith raised with Comey serious questions about the secret eavesdropping program, according to two sources familiar with the episode. He was joined by a former OLC lawyer, Patrick Philbin, who had become national-security aide to the deputy attorney general. Comey backed them up. The White House was told: no reauthorization.

The angry reaction bubbled up all the way to the Oval Office. President Bush, with his penchant for put-down nicknames, had begun referring to Comey as “Cuomey” or “Cuomo,” apparently after former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who was notorious for his Hamlet-like indecision over whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s. A high-level delegation — White House Counsel Gonzales and chief of staff Andy Card — visited Ashcroft in the hospital to appeal Comey’s refusal. In pain and on medication, Ashcroft stood by his No. 2.

Yes, you read that right: John Ashcroft was a more serious defender of civil liberties than Alberto Gonzales. It’s a very concrete demonstation of the old saying: “When you think things can’t get any worse, they do.”

Paul Kiel has a rundown of Comey’s testimony today, which includes a little more spice than Newsweek’s account. Check it out.

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