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Subpoenas target administration's wiretapping program

The Senate Judiciary Committee wants the legal justification for the contentious antiterror effort.

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Congress is taking its most aggressive measures to date to shed light on the legality of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping policy, one of its most controversial efforts in its battle against terrorism.

The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the Justice Department, and the National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday, giving the administration until July 18 to turn over documents relating to the surveillance program. Over the past 18 months, the administration has ignored at least nine requests for these documents, says Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont.

Senator Leahy said that the committee's attempts to gather information on the surveillance program have been met with a "consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection." The New York Times first exposed the program in December 2005 and now reports that this is the most assertive attempt to investigate it since the Democrats won control of Congress this year.

"It's unacceptable," Mr. Leahy said. "It is stonewalling of the worst kind."

The White House, the vice president's office and the Justice Department declined Wednesday to say how they would respond to the subpoenas.

"We're aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately," said Tony Fratto, White House deputy press secretary.

"It's unfortunate that Congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation," Mr. Fratto added.

The Boston Globe reports, however, that the decision to issue subpoenas received substantial bipartisan support.

[O]nly three of the nine Republicans on the committee voted against authorizing the subpoenas, which were approved by a 13-to-3 vote. The committee, under both Republican and Democratic leadership, has been seeking information about the program and questioning its legality since The New York Times revealed its existence in December 2005.

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