Memories (wiretapping edition)

There was something very familiar about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judicary Committee yesterday. As Think Progress summarizes yesterday morning's highlight:

Earlier this year, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which is charged with investigating attorney misconduct, announced that it could not pursue an investigation into the role of Justice lawyers in crafting the NSA warrantless wiretapping program because it was denied security clearance.

Previously, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would not explain why the security clearances had been denied, saying he did not want to “get into internal discussions.” But in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, Gonzales said President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an investigation of the warrantless eavesdropping program.

At first I couldn't quite figure out where I had heard something like this before, but then it dawned on me: the articles of impeachment drawned up in 1974 against then President (and current Yorba Linda roadside attraction) Richard M. Nixon.

Section 4 of Article 2 charged: “He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavoured to impede and frustrate lawful inquiries by duly constituted executive, judicial and legislative entities concerning” among several other things (Nixon was a busy, busy boy) “the electronic surveillance of private citizens”.

Of course that was all very long ago, back before Washington started operating on that great Nixonian principle: “Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal”.

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