In 2004, after top Justice Department lawyers refused to re-certify the legality of President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, the Bush administration re-authorized the program anyway without the Justice Department’s approval. Previous accounts of the program’s re-authorization reported that the “line for the attorney general’s signature remained blank.” But in the Washington Post today, Barton Gellman reports that Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, David Addington, actually signed then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales’s name to the document’s signature line:
Addington opened the code-word-classified file on his computer. He had a presidential directive to rewrite.
It has been widely reported that Bush executed the March 11 order with a blank space over the attorney general’s signature line. That is not correct . For reasons both symbolic and practical, the vice president’s lawyer could not tolerate an empty spot where a mutinous subordinate should have signed. Addington typed a substitute signature line: “Alberto R. Gonzales.”
Gellman writes that “Only Richard M. Nixon, in an interview after leaving the White House in disgrace, claimed authority so nearly unlimited” as the authority Addington claimed for the president in the document he signed with Gonzales’ name.