Facing the possibility that the battle with Congress could land in court, the White House is weighing its next move.
"It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation," presidential spokesman Tony Fratto said after the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office.
The panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, also announced Wednesday that it was separately summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The embattled attorney general will be expected to talk about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, Leahy said, and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs.
It is all part of the Democrats' effort to investigate the firings of several top federal prosecutors and to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the fight against on terror since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The subpoenas extend the probe into the private sector, demanding among other things documents on any agreements that telecommunications companies made to cooperate with the surveillance program.
The White House has contended that its search for would-be terrorists is legal, necessary and effective - stressing that there have been no further such attacks. Administration officials say they've given classified information - such as details about the eavesdropping program, which is now under court supervision - to the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.
Subpoenas previously were issued for former administration White House legal counsel Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, a one-time White House political director.
Congressional Democrats have accused the administration of ousting the prosecutors for purely political reasons, even though U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. Gonzales has acknowledged the dismissals were poorly explained to Congress but has insisted they were justified. Bush has steadfastly supported Gonzales against demands for his resignation, although the president has said he believed the matter could have been better handled.
The Judiciary panels have turned the investigation into a sweeping review of Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department.