One Acting OLC Head Replaces Another

Charlie Savage reports that Acting OLC head David Barron is returning to spend more time with his law students at Harvard, to be replaced by Jonathan Cedarbaum. Unlike several of the legal jobs that have turned over under this Administration, this one doesn’t appear to be tied to a fight over counter-terrorism policy.

David J. Barron, the acting head of the Justice Department’s powerful Office of Legal Counsel, will step down next month and be replaced by one of his current deputies, Jonathan G. Cedarbaum, the department said Thursday.

Mr. Barron has run the office, which advises the president and executive branch whether proposed actions would be lawful, since January 2009. He is returning to Harvard Law School, which limits tenured professors to two years of leave, and he said in an interview that wants to move back to Massachusetts before the start of the school year because he has three young children.

And so we move on to yet another Acting head of the OLC that has been in place since the last Senate-confirmed head of the OLC–Jack Goldsmith–left six years ago.

Savage notes that Cedarbaum is one of the lawyers Liz “BabyDick” Cheney targeted in a witch hunt of all the Obama Administration lawyers who had ever represented a Gitmo detainee.

Mr. Barron’s replacement, Mr. Cedarbaum, came to public attention earlier this year after Fox News named him as one of several Justice Department lawyers who had previously advocated for detainees.[snip]

At a partner at the WilmerHale law firm, he was one of several lawyers whose name appeared on a Supreme Court brief in a case involving six Algerian detainees who had been arrested in Bosnia, and who were seeking a right to a habeas-corpus hearing.

Which means both the Acting Solicitor General, Neal Katyal, and the Acting Assistant Attorney General for OLC are among those who defended our legal system by representing detainees. (Of course, Eric Holder himself represented some terrorist supporters, but the board of Chiquita are a bunch of rich white Republican terrorist supporters who don’t offend BabyDick in the least.)

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

32 replies
  1. Hmmm says:

    Why am I mentally seeing a hot potato being passed from hand to hand?

    Also: All these “Acting” titles… is there any more of that at the moment than usual, or is this a regular amount?

    • MadDog says:

      I would hazard to guess that continuing with an “Acting Head”, and in particular, that of the recently hyperpolitical OLC, suits the politicos in the White House (Rahm, Axelrod, Plouffe and Obama himself) just fine.

      As in, “Nominating someone, anyone, will only draw Repug fire, so let’s not offer them a target.”

      Their twitchy, conflict-avoidance, knee jerk reaction to any and all policy matters that might offend or set off the Repugs has become so ingrained in the White House political muscle memory now that it takes place without any conscious thought at all.

  2. alinaustex says:

    I for one am trying to remain optimistic about final outcomes here . And if the acting head of the OLC is somebody that babyLiz was trying to smear
    then that might give pause for some cautious hope that the the outcomes regarding the torture that DarthCheney et al -inflicted on us might actually have consequences. By the way did anyone notice that US Attorney General Holder has stated recently that the Durham investigation will be issuing its findings? ( If I could do a link I would but the story is at Main Justice ).
    And I am not very adept at researching on the “internet tubes ” -so maybe one of my ‘buddies’ here at the Wheel can help me -did not a pretty major amendment and or bill pass recently that was co-sponsored by Sen Coburn and Sen Leahey among others that extended the SOL indefinately for certain war crimes ?

    • bmaz says:

      There is not a chance in hell of OLC changing in the direction you seek from its current track; if there was ever such a chance, Obama would not have dumped his own nominee Dawn Johnson. Durham is not going to do jack shit; the most, and I mean the absolute best you could possibly hope for is that he indicts Jose Rodriquez. But even if he does that, he will have waited past, or so close to, the statutes of limitation for any crimes the DOJ would actually prosecute, that there will be no time left to roll Rodriquez or take any further action up the chain. And do not waste your breath about freaking homicides, it simply will not ever be prosecuted by this administration. Never. As to extending statutes of limitation, that may be fine going forward, but will not do squat for crimes already committed as that would constitute a violation of ex post facto provisions of the Constitution.

  3. Mary says:

    LOLOLOLOLOLOL

    That’s great – Barron leaves Obamaco with Cedarbaum. WHose mom was a Reagan appointee to the bench I think – that makes for some interesting shootin’ matches.

  4. alinaustex says:

    A little bit OT here but should we hold out any hope that once Gen Petreus takes over ISAF that the black site at Bagram will be shut down. Does it not go against the” Killculllen best practice” of not making more insurgents by torturing their relatives in a black site ?
    Maybe someday the OLC will actually hold Addington & Yoo accountable for the torture done because of all the specious legal cover that fig leafed the homicides at Camp No and elsewhere.
    (No telling how many peasents became Victor Charlie’s because of the Tiger Cages – or so I am told by my relatives that were there. )

    • bmaz says:

      OLC cannot hold anybody accountable for anything; they have no prosecutorial or investigative authority whatsoever.

      • Mary says:

        Not only that, but now they have two lovely precedents – el Masri and Arar – as go-tos for Executive branch power to torture and get away with it.

        And since material support is now ok’d as a go-to for criminal charges- even of lawyers giving aid and inforamtion, it’s a lovely grounds for forever detentions too.

        Obamaco has screwed the pooch way beyond what Bush did.

    • DWBartoo says:

      In case you may wonder, you have not inadvertently wandered into the midst of a bunch of pessimists, alinaustex, merely the cutting edge of sober realization and honest assessment.

      This site, with its most well informed participants is covering this nation’s descent from the rule of law into the chaos of brute power, which is every day more arrogantly displayed.

      Reasonable people cannot help but be dismayed.

      “Looking forward”, given the depth and breadth of the collapse of American legal system, the trashing of the Constitution and the blatant activism of the Robert’s Court in favor of the corporate and political ruling classes, the people of this nation, and indeed all the peoples of the world, face “interesting” times.

      Welcome aboard.

      DW

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Comfortingly for Obama and his handlers, who view the DoJ as a vulnerability, not an opportunity, this allows Mr. O to keep using “acting” heads, as did Bush and for the same reason. That is, to avoid the Senate confirmation process and to keep department heads and their departments suitably vulnerable so they don’t do something rash, such as enforce the law against the wrong people, like rich white guys.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, and once the Administration has put detainees in concentration camps like these in foreign lands, of course there are no further rights, nor is there apparently any available path, for the detainees to challenge the conditions of their confinement. For the rest of their lives. This is the DC Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in Maqaleh v. Gates that would be precedent as of this date. They may well die in the concentration camps Mr. Obama has kindly shipped them to.

      • Mary says:

        Well, after all, what do you expect him to do with the lab rats once they finish up the experiment? /bitter/s

  6. Jim White says:

    For six years, spanning both a Republican and a Democrat in the White House, it has been impossible to contemplate a confirmation hearing for an OLC head. No hearing can be held because it is patently obvious that the government has been acting outside of the law and has been getting “cooked” results from OLC to justify such illegality.

    I suspect that Rahm and Obama would be perfectly happy to serve 8 years without ever having such a confirmation hearing.

    • phred says:

      Personally I like the “Acting Head” of OLC. Acting is an art form where one pretends to be someone they are not. A more appropriate title for the person running OLC these days cannot be found.

      • DWBartoo says:

        There seems a great amount of pretense acting about, several “offices” or “posts” are at “play” …

        (You are getting those Carlin vibes going … again, phred)

        DW

  7. Mary says:

    This isn’t in re: anything, so I guess it’s OT, but it’s my It’s a Small World moment.

    On Monday the Times Square failed bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was in court for his plea.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/22/nyregion/22terror.html?hpw
    In front of Judge Cedarbaum.

    “I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over,” he said, “because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that.”

    Obama policies-more national insecurity.

    One OLC to mind them all, and in the …

  8. bobschacht says:

    Rachel Maddow tonight featured Rep. Louis Gomert (TX) comparing Obama to Hitler, in the context of Republican response to Barton’s “apology” to BP. Gomert was bemoaning the idea that Obama was receiving extensive support from people whom Gomert regarded as the same kind of “useful idiots” as Hitler had when he was building his power base before WWII.

    However, rather than examining the dictatorial powers being accumulated by the White House with the assistance of the Department of Justice in the past two administrations, Rachel went off with Debbie Wasserman Schultz to lampoon Republicans for being impossibly looney about supporting BP.

    And then, a few segments later, she launched into a very serious rant about the issue of whether it is our Nation, or just our Military, at war. Not questioning the “at war” canard that Congress has still not declared.

    Rachel, for all her brilliance, is being distracted by shiny objects.

    Bob in AZ

    • onitgoes says:

      I saw the Gomert clip with the disgust it deserved. I thought Gomert seemed illiterate or just very very dumb, but it’s beyond contempt that these fools waste oxygen to distract the masses this way. It was obvious that someone had given Gomert that card from which he made a valient attempt to “read” what was written on it. It seems doubtful that Gomert actually understood the words he was trying to read. Pathetic. But the MIC likes really vapid stupid people pretending to be “in charge.”

      But when RM and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz started in with their “nyah nyah lookit the stoopit Republicants” gumpf, I had to turn off the tv.

      I suppose RM may be forced by GM to play stupid games like this; I don’t know. Once in a while RM still has a useful bit on her show. It’s ok to highlight Republicans speaking out crap like this and commenting on it.

      But seriously? The level of discourse is dumbed down everywhere to the detriment of all citizens.

      Other commenters here, esp DW, have clearly explained the *real* issues and problems facing our country. RM is yet another person in the Veal Pen enjoying her corporate payola, and I’m sure RM is paid handsomely to mislead citizens with equally vapid, useless, pointless stupidities pushed out to distract from what’s really going on; in many ways I see RM as being worse than stupid Gomert bc RM is very, very smart; RM has NO excuse for what she’s doing. Shame on her bc RM does know better, I’m sure. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is even more execrable because she purports to “represent” her constituents, but she’s certainly not doing so, or, at least, is doing a crappy job and should also be fired when she runs again for office (not that it will probably matter).

    • Mary says:

      I think she’s playing along for what she thinks her base wants – closer and closer to the elections, more and more “crazy GOPer” coverage and “awwww, aren’t Dems so much betterer”

      Real issues – none of it is about real issues anymore.

  9. pdaly says:

    And so we move on to yet another Acting head of the OLC that has been in place since the last Senate-confirmed head of the OLC–Jack Goldsmith–left six years ago.

    Depressing news from DC, as usual.

    OT: I was looking online for a well-constructed rocking chair to give as a gift to a family member. Found out that the reproduction JFK rocking chair sells for $100+ less at the JFK Presidential Library store than it retails for at the Smithsonian Museum store.

    Also found that JFK library store is a conduit for Lynne “MamaDick” Cheney’s book sales. What is the JFK Library thinking?!
    –although, if you follow that link, you will see that Cheney’s ‘A is for Abigail’ is “Temporarily Out of Stock.” ;-)

    (However, “Our 50 States” by MamaDick is available.

    Either there are more closet republicans in the Democratic Party than we have already counted, or the Kennedy Trust wants to snag every available dollar from a visitor to the JFK Library store, republican family members attracted to the Cheney name included.)

  10. alinaustex says:

    [email protected]
    I know OLC does not have any prosecutable authority – what I was wondering about was whether or not the Margolis report was the final say regarding Yoo (and by association Addington ) and the torture memos.Could it be with new OLC leadership the Margolis ‘whitewash ‘ might not be the last word .
    And on what basis do you assert that no homicides will ever be prosecuted that have ocurred from the torture .?
    Last for the purposes of our friendly wager is Rodriguez a Prinicpal

  11. alinaustex says:

    DW @ 8
    I have been around here for a good while -although not a lawyer I do believe I have learned very much from the lawyers here. And perhaps I am totally naive about present circumstances regarding past misdeeds being punished. But if it is as bad as some say here -why did Mr Kaytal and others fight so vigorously against the Bushcheney regieme and then overnight choose to join the ‘darkside’ ?

    • DWBartoo says:

      First, there is kabuki, the pretense of “opposition” to the “party” in power, but then, there is the continuing growth in the assertion of Executive power AND the dominance of the Executive over Congress and the Courts, at the behest of the corporate class (known historically as the “military-industrial complex”, which also, in Eisenhower’s eyes included “Congressional”, at the tail-end).

      From the perspective of WHOMEVER is in “power”, it is ALL good. A continuing AND improving good … for those in power …

      Some observers have determined that this “shift”, this usurpation, had its genesis in the decision to use nuclear weapons to “end” WWII (and demonstrate to the Russians the nature of America’s “prowess”, nonetheless, an attack on Russia, at the end of the war, was seriously considered, at the highest level …)

      The “show” of political difference between the real aims of the TWO political parties who dominate and control “politics” in this nation is simply that, a show, a pretense.

      Indeed, as Mary says @ 10, “Obamaco has screwed the pooch way beyond what Bush did.”

      No one, in real power, in this nation, is on the “side” of the rule of law OR the people.

      Nine-eleven certainly did “change” everything.

      It allowed the “opportunity” to expand the national security state, which had its true beginning in 1947, with the “National Security Act”.

      What we are seeing now is the culmination of decades of effort and deceit.

      It is fair to say that it may well be the gravest threat this nation has ever faced. And, it comes from “within”, something the people of this nation were early warned to be on guard for. Apparently, that stellar advice has not been sufficiently heeded?

      DW

      • DWBartoo says:

        There is one further consideration regarding power.

        In America today, few leave “positions” of power less well-off, financially, than when they entered … “public service”, unless, of course, they have provoked the “endless” wrath of their fellow power elites …

        The Presidency is the ultimate “prize” … for any number of reasons, however, for those who “play”, power is always a … “game”.

        DW

    • Mary says:

      Because they weren’t good Republicans who were going to be allowed the milk the system with Bush/Cheney. Katyal was on the wrong side of the legal line up on Bush v. Gore. And, btw, he really was just going after them on the worst of their fronts – he’s always advocated for some very, imo, unAmerican approaches to Exec power to wage war on those who dissent. It’s like Lederman – there was never really any passion with either of them for “truth, justice and the American way” Lederman over and over argued that, as much as he was adopting a pretense of shock about them – the OLC memos were all that any Exec torturer needed to get them off the hook.

      You had two who were originally not in the mold – Koh and Dawn Johnson. Koh they tucked away at State, where he couldn’t make much impact, but then also put him under Hillary, who apparently didn’t have much trouble converting him into an assassination advocate. The one they thought they might not turn didn’t really get a shot.

  12. b2020 says:

    So all the material supporters of the SCOTUS “material support” atrocity are also guilty of “material support”, and one of them is now materially supporting the DOJ by temping as OLC lead, in material support of a permanently temporary status quo. Gotcha.

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