One passage on the IGs report on surveillance suggests something that perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise — that President Bush was kept in the dark by members of the White House staff about about serious objections to the surveillance program raised by others in the administration.
On the morning of March 12, 2004, [Deputy Attorney General James] Comey and [FBI director Robert] Mueller attended the regular daily threat briefing with the president in the Oval Office. Comey said that following the briefing, President Bush called him into the President’s private study for an “unscheduled meeting.” Comey told the President of DOJ’s legal concerns regarding the [President’s Surveillance Program]. According to Comey, the President’s response indicated that he had not been fully informed of these concerns. Comey told the President that the President’s staff had been advised of these issues “for weeks.” According to Comey, the President said that he just needed until May 6 (the date of the next Authorization) and that if he could not get Congress to fix FISA by then he would shut down the program. The President emphasized the importance of the program and that it “saves lives.”
Not that any of this gets the president himself off the hook. After all, it’s his responsibility to make sure he’s getting the right information from his staff. But it would be interesting to know which members of the president’s staff knew about Comey’s concerns, and apparently declined to pass them on to the boss.