Ashcroft had earlier body-blocked Cheney's plan to invoke the"enemy combatant" theory--i.e., president designates you as EC, you're stripped of all legal rights and thrown in the brig indefinitely, with no opportunity to contest your imprisonment--against all terrorist suspects on American soil, citizens or not. Here, even when cornered in his hospital bed by Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales, he refuses to sign off on the NSA program. He also prevented John " crush 'em" Yoo's ascention to head of the Office of Legal Counsel.
Also in a starring role, Jack Goldsmith, former head of OLC, who repudiated the torture memos, despite great pressure from leading Vulcan David Addington. Though I never had him for class, Goldsmith taught at U of C when I was there, and he always cut an appealling figure: sort of like a genteel, cleaned-up version of John Belushi. As the article makes clear, he's one of the good guys in this story.