Leahy Subpoenas White House for Torture Documents

Posted October 21, 2008 at 4:06pm

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) subpoenaed Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Tuesday for documents relating to the administration’s detention and interrogation policies and practices, marking a significant escalation of a years-long standoff between the Bush administration and Congressional investigators.

Leahy, ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and other House and Senate lawmakers have engaged in a largely fruitless showdown with the administration for more than five years regarding documents related to the policy.

The subpoenas, authorized by the committee during a Sept. 25 meeting, request that Mukasey turn over a raft of specific documents relating to the Office of Legal Counsel’s role in the development of the administration’s torture and interrogation policies in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Although Leahy has had a significantly better relationship with Mukasey than his predecessor, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the two have remained at odds over torture. Mukasey and other members of the Bush administration have consistently invoked executive privilege to avoid releasing documents relating to its torture and detention policies.

In a letter to Mukasey, Leahy decries the administration’s refusal to turn over the documents.

“This administration’s stonewalling leaves this committee without basic facts that are essential to carrying out its oversight responsibilities. … There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee,” Leahy wrote. “The Executive Branch should not obstruct Congress from conducting its constitutional oversight and lawmaking duties by making sweeping assertions of secrecy and privilege.”

Mukasey has until Nov. 18 to comply with the subpoena.