Former senior Justice Department official, now Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal explains in an interview with Time magazine that the late night visit by Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales to the hospital bed of John Ashcroft–described so vividly by Deputy Attorney General Comey in his testimony on Tuesday–was most likely a serious breach of legislation and regulations governing the use of highly classified national security information.
“Executive branch rules require sensitive classified information to be discussed in specialized facilities that are designed to guard against the possibility that officials are being targeted for surveillance outside of the workplace,” says Georgetown Law Professor Neal Katyal, who was National Security Advisor to the Deputy Attorney General under Bill Clinton. “The hospital room of a cabinet official is exactly the type of target ripe for surveillance by a foreign power,” Katyal says. This particular information could have been highly sensitive. Says one government official familiar with the Terrorist Surveillance Program: “Since it’s that program, it may involve cryptographic information,” some of the most highly protected information in the intelligence community.
The case for a violation by Gonzales and Card thus seems strong. And it wouldn’t be the first serious breach by the Bush White House. Note that Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a senior adviser to the president, was prosecuted and convicted for making false statements in connection with the investigation of his disclosure of the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. Testimony in the Libby trial made clear that this disclosure had been plotted by Vice President Dick Cheney and involved Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Another investigation has cited the White House for rampant breaches in the handling of highly classified information. All of these cases collectively show a consistent pattern of misuse of highly classified national security information for partisan political purposes–usually to damage a person viewed as a critic. And note: Karl Rove did not even have his security clearance revoked.