US Vice President Cheney convened a meeting in the Situation Room at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10, 2004, with just one day left before the warrantless domestic surveillance program was set to expire. Around him were National Security Agency Director Michael V. Hayden, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and the Gang of Eight — the four ranking members of the House and the Senate, and the chairmen and vice chairmen of the intelligence committees, Washington Post Staff Writer Barton Gellman writes.
With a nod from Cheney, Hayden walked through the program’s vital mission. Gonzales said top lawyers at the NSA and Justice had green-lighted the program from the beginning. Now Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was in the hospital, and James B. Comey, Ashcroft’s deputy, refused to certify that the surveillance was legal.