The Senate Judiciary Committee has now issued subpoenas for documents related to the NSA spying program, and the deadline for the Administration to respond is tomorrow. What?s going to happen next? Can the Executive branch ignore these committee subpoenas?
It certainly can try, and a showdown between Congress and the Executive may lie ahead. Having shrouded the program in secrecy for over five years and fought oversight in the traditional court system, the Administration is likely to keep trying to avoid meaningful Congressional oversight as well.
In a recent post at the Balkinization blog, Marty Lederman outlines the Senate's options for enforcing compliance. The law in this area remains unclear, and past clashes between Congress and the Executive over legislative access to "national security" documents have been resolved by settlement, not judicial decision. The Justice Department has routinely insisted that these documents could not be shared with a Congressional committee, but has had to abandon its claim to Exclusive power over what to release.
This fight might not be easy for Congress, but it must stand firm and fulfill its Constitutional duty. Disclosure of the requested documents could be a critical step toward revealing the full extent of the NSA's illegal spying and the role that telecommunications companies like AT&T played in it. The American public deserves to know the truth about the program, and Congress should, to the fullest extent, use its powers to make the Executive comply.
You can help, too, by showing your support for Congress' investigation now.
Updated, 7/18: Apparently, the Judiciary Committee has agreed to delay the deadline.