Chris's Rants

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Palace Revolt

Newsweek has another must-read article up on Palace Revolt (emphasis mine):
These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror . Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.


The chief opponent of the rebels, though by no means the only one, was an equally obscure, but immensely powerful, lawyer-bureaucrat. Intense, workaholic (even by insane White House standards), David Addington, formerly counsel, now chief of staff to the vice president, is a righteous, ascetic public servant.


To Addington and Cheney, the 9/11 attacks—and the threat of more and worse to come—were perfect justification for unleashing the CIA and other long-blunted weapons in the national-security arsenal. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who disdains lawyers, was ready to go. So, too, was CIA Director George Tenet—but only if his spooks had legal cover, so they wouldn't be left holding the bag if things went wrong.

Addington and a small band of like-minded lawyers set about providing that cover—a legal argument that the power of the president in time of war was virtually untrammeled. One of Addington's first jobs had been to draft a presidential order establishing military commissions to try unlawful combatants—terrorists caught on the global battlefield. The normal "interagency process"—getting agreement from lawyers at Defense, State, the intelligence agencies and so forth—proved glacial, as usual. So Addington, working with fellow conservative Deputy White House Counsel Timothy Flanigan, came up with a solution: cut virtually everyone else out. Addington is a purist, not a cynic; he does not believe he is in any way ignoring or twisting the law. It is also important to note that Addington was not sailing off on some personal crusade; he had the full backing of the president and vice president, who shared his views.


Inexperienced in national-security law, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales was steered by more-expert lawyers like Addington and Flanigan. Others, like John Bellinger, the National Security Council's top lawyer, were simply not told what was going on. Addington and the hard-liners had particular disregard for Bellinger, who was considered a softie—mocked by Addington because he had lunch once a month or so with a pillar of the liberal-leaning legal establishment, the late Lloyd Cutler. When Addington and Flanigan produced a document—signed by Bush—that gave the president near-total authority over the prosecution of suspected terrorists, Bellinger burst into Gonzales's office, clearly upset, according to a source familiar with the episode. But it was too late.


Reasoning that there was no time to obtain warrants from a secret court set up under FISA (a sometimes cumbersome process), the Bush administration justified going around the law by invoking a post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing use of force against global terror. The eavesdropping program was very closely held, with cryptic briefings for only a few congressional leaders. Once again, Addington and his allies made sure that possible dissenters were cut out of the loop.

There was one catch: the secret program had to be reapproved by the attorney general every 45 days. It was Goldsmith's job to advise the A.G. on the legality of the program. In March 2004, John Ashcroft was in the hospital with a serious pancreatic condition. At Justice, Comey, Ashcroft's No. 2, was acting as attorney general. The grandson of an Irish cop and a former U.S. attorney from Manhattan, Comey, 45, is a straight arrow. (It was Comey who appointed his friend—the equally straitlaced and dogged Patrick Fitzgerald—to be the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak-investigation case.) Goldsmith raised with Comey serious questions about the secret eavesdropping program, according to two sources familiar with the episode. He was joined by a former OLC lawyer, Patrick Philbin, who had become national-security aide to the deputy attorney general. Comey backed them up. The White House was told: no reauthorization.
Read the whole article. It is these guys, not Tenet and the other criminals who helped lead us to an unjust war in Iraq, that deserve the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of course, they never will be recognized for such an honor by the current Preznit since it is they who are perceived as "the enemy" by the fascist criminals in the WH who think that the Preznit is above the law.

The Senate hearings on SpyGate had damned well better be including testimony from those within the Justice Dept who clearly felt that the WH was acting outside the law.

Update: ReddHedd@FDL has more on this article. I thought that her wrap-up was priceless, and something that we should all internalize (emphasis mine):
And a short note to Dems on the Judiciary: please, read the article and put together a witness list. There are quite a few people who would likely give you some meaty answers -- and a few folks, like Dick Cheney and David Addington who owe you a hell of a lot of explanations. (Not that I think they'll give you any, but subpoena their asses anyway. They work for the American public. It's time to remind them of that fact.)


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