Here's the letter from Ashcroft, Comey, Goldsmith, and Philbin that came up so often in today's SJC hearing. The key graf is this one, in which four top lawyers say, "to hell with the Courts, we've got two branches plus Cheney, who needs a third?"
Finally, we note that we are familiar with the legal analysis conducted within the Executive Branch of intelligence activities allegedly connected to the lawsuits against telecommunications carriers and with debates within the Executive Branch about that analysis. Given our experiences, we can certainly understand that reasonable people may question and wish to probe the legal bases for such intelligence activities. We firmly believe, however, that the best place for that examination and debate is not in a public lawsuit against private companies that were asked to assist their Nation, but within the Executive branch, where intelligence-gathering decisions are made, and in joint efforts between the Executive Branch·and Congress to ensure appropriate oversight.
The paragraph pretty much says it all. It comes as close as they ever do to saying, "you've got to listen to use because we're the four people who objected to the illegalities of this program in the first place." Elsewhere, they don't acknowledge why a letter from these four people might carry such weight.
But then, in their solution, they say, "to hell with the Courts. We've got the Executive branch and Congress"--which thus far have proved unable to "probe the legal bases for such intelligence activities" much less something they don't mention, "hold those accountable who broke the law."
Which seems to me, at least, as a really nice way of saying, no, trust us, we started this, we assure you it'll get taken care of.
Update: See Stoller for Ashcroft's financial conflicts of interest in writing this letter, and Big Tent Dem for the conflict of interest of the bigwigs who wrote the WSJ article cited so commonly in today's hearing.
Hey bigwig lawyer types: when you're being paid to say something, it makes what you say a whole lot less credible.