COMMENTS: Shoulders and Strong Arms

NBC concentrated on the War on Terrorism. Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams reported on the behind-the-scenes power struggle over the National Security Agency's program to conduct warrantless wiretaps on US citizens. Anchor Brian Williams jetted to London for an Exclusive interview with Britain's departing prime minister on his foreign policy. Tony Blair conceded that in all his dealings with President George Bush "it is September 11th that governed…I have never had any doubt that since September 11th our place was, as I said at the time, shoulder to shoulder with America." Anchor Williams pressed Blair: "What did Iraq have to do with 9/11?" Blair was non-responsive: "We were brought face to face with a terrorism that was completely different and therefore the attitude that I took after September 11th was that everything had to change."

The NSA story was described at Senate Judiciary Committee hearings by James Comey, who served as acting Attorney General while his then boss, John Ashcroft, was hospitalized, seriously ill with an inflamed pancreas. A pair of White House aides, then Chief of Staff Andrew Card and then Counsel Alberto Gonzales, stood at his hospital bedside and pressured the sick Ashcroft to approve an extension of the secret eavesdropping. "The scene started a crisis that nearly brought mass resignations from the Justice Department," Williams recounted from Comey's testimony. Ashcroft resisted the pressure so an "agitated" Card summoned Comey. Williams quoted the witness: "I responded that after the conduct I had just witnessed I would not meet with him without a witness present."


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