Phil Carter Resigns

The announcement in the WaPo that Phil Carter had resigned his post as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs was bleak enough. That article attributes Carter’s departure to “family reasons.”

Phillip Carter, who was appointed deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy in April, said in a brief telephone interview that he was leaving for “personal and family reasons” and not because of any policy differences with the administration.

But Carol Rosenberg–whose coverage of Gitmo is far and away the best–seems to suggest there’s more going on.

He quit without explanation just days after Obama confirmed in an interview with Fox News in Beijing that his administration would miss its Jan. 22 Guantánamo closure deadline.

The development apparently took the Department of Defense by surprise.


A Defense Department source said Carter, an attorney with a 2004 law degree from UCLA, had already stopped reporting to work by the time the Pentagon confirmed his resignation — and that his last field trip was not abroad but to Thomson, Ill.

She goes onto suggest that Carter may not have gotten along with the Cheney dead-enders in the Pentagon.

So Carter heads off to Thomson, IL at just about precisely the time Obama was announcing that Gitmo would not be closed any time soon (and, it should be said, in the wake of Greg Craig’s resignation, apparently for Gitmo-related reasons). And then he quits suddenly, apparently without notice.

That may well be the “family reasons” the WaPo suggests. But it appears that the folks closest to Gitmo suspect something else is going on.

Update: Glenn Greenwald catalogs the views Carter has espoused that have been rejected by the Obama Administration.

46 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Perhaps AG Holder’s Senate testimony last week added fuel to the fire.

    And at the same time that AG Holder said that military commissions were just fine with him.

    And that “laws of war” allowing the detention of folks indefinitely as well.

  2. emptywheel says:

    Could be, but that they were going to use MCs has been clear since July. I wonder whether they’ve decided not to move the detainees to US soil?

    Given that they had to fire Greg Craig bc he made a decision that Dick CHeney didn’t like, I’d imagine that the very orchestrated campaign of the last week–Which Rahm and Axe have, once again, not responded to effectively–might scare them away from bringing detainees to the US.

    • MadDog says:

      …I wonder whether they’ve decided not to move the detainees to US soil?

      Good point!

      The Charleston brig (home to Jose Padilla’s years-long solitary confinement) had been floated recently for indefinite detentions, but I’d imagine that Senator Lindsey Graham R-SC might’ve put the kibosh on that.

      His total opposition to Article III courts for detainee trials has been some of the most vociferous. I can’t see him then saying “let’s bring ’em all to Charleston”.

    • MadDog says:

      …Which Rahm and Axe have, once again, not responded to effectively…

      Or they are responding in their typical “don’t offend anybody!” 2008, and now 2010 and 2012 campaign mode.

  3. BayStateLibrul says:

    History will look back and see that Obama’s mistake in both the Pentagon, Intelligence, and DOJ was that he failed to “clean house”
    When he tried, his appointees were fucked at each point by careerists.
    Also, Carter pushed for the draft… maybe he was pissed with our
    descent into Vietnam, with a war we CANNOT possibly win in Afghanistan…
    How is Obama gonna “bend the cost curve” in Defense?

    • bmaz says:

      And after a whole boatload of bad policy she could have and would presumably have objected to has been set in stone and done. That appears to be a designed plan from ObamaRahma.

  4. varney says:

    Before Phil Carter left for Iraq, his blog ‘Intel Dump’ was a favorite site to visit. I can only hope he recommences blogging SOON.

  5. scribe says:

    Good for Carter – he seems to have quit (assuming Rahm didn’t just out and fire him) for the same reason I’ve cut back on my blogging and will be sitting on the sidelines in 2010 and 2012 – throughgoing disgust with the hypocrisy of the Admin.

      • scribe says:

        The Stillers and Obama are flailing for the same reason: they dumped ho they came with and went for someone else. In both cases, they lost Discipline and Principle. And, as to the Stillers lacking a key defensive player through injury (Polamalu), that winds up analogizing in Obama managing to run off Greg Craig, Phil Carter and Really Pissing Off His Base by going over to Bush/Cheney policies up and down the civil liberties continuum.

  6. scribe says:

    Wholly OT: As I write this, German radio reports that Roman Polanski has been allowed out of jail on 4.5 million Swiss Francs’ bail and other conditions. More to follow.

    • bmaz says:

      Outstanding. I am pretty sure I heard that the California court of appeals agreed to go ahead and hear the appeal without him present and that it is scheduled for O/A

      • scribe says:

        More on Polanski. From German radio at 5 PM their time (11 AM ET):

        Polanski out of jail.

        The film director Roman Polanski, incarcerated because of sexual misconduct, will be released from jail on bail. The Swiss federal court in Lausanne imposed a bail of about 3 million Euros. Polanski must turn over all passports and will be placed under house arrest. Additionally, the court may require him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet. The Swiss police had arrested the director at the end of September on an arrest warrant out of the USA. Polanski is alleged to have abused a 13 y/o girl in 1977 after giving her alcohol and drugs.

        Polanski auf freiem Fuß
        Der wegen eines Sexualdelikts verhaftete Filmemacher Roman Polanski wird gegen eine Kaution aus dem Gefängnis entlassen. Das Schweizerische Bundesgericht in Lausanne legte die Kautionssumme auf umgerechnet rund drei Millionen Euro fest. Polanski muss alle Ausweispapiere abgeben und wird unter Hausarrest gestellt. Dem Gericht zufolge könnte ihm dafür eine elektronische Fußfessel angelegt werden. Die Schweizer Polizei hatte den Regisseur Ende September aufgrund eines Haftbefehls in den USA festgenommen. Polanski soll 1977 ein damals 13-jährigen Mädchen missbraucht haben, nachdem er ihm Alkohol und Drogen gegeben hatte.

    • bobschacht says:

      Perino: No Terrorists Attacked America On Bush’s Watch

      Yeah, right. Except for that unfortunate incident in New York on 9/11.
      And the Anthrax letters.

      What an airhead.

      Bob in AZ

      • mattcarmody says:

        If you read her statement as a conspiracy-minded person would, she is being absolutely truthful. If every one of the hijackers had been recruited by an intelligence agency (and there were links btw Egyptian intel and Atta) AND if the planes were under the guidance of an automatic navigation system (not wholly unrealistic considering what we’re doing with Predator attacks being controlled from the US) AND if the thing that hit the Pentagon wasn’t an airliner after all AND, finally, if the anthrax was delivered by a US intel asset or a rogue Cheney-connected assassin, then Perrino didn’t lie at all.

        IF, a big if granted, but if the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax attacks were US assets, then there were no terrorist attacks on Bush’s watch.

        If I was Bush, I’d take the heat for 9/11.

      • fatster says:

        Yes, and with that very statement she seems to have appointed herself as the nation’s Turkey of the Year (and there were so many other candidates, too!).

    • Mary says:

      Aren’t we lucky that Obamaco let McConnell open their eyes to her inherent worth and hand out appointments to her?

      Somehowquasirelatedinmymind – I saw too where WaPo is closing NY and Chitown and maybe some other offices, firing some and offering reassignment to Washington to others (like Gelman). The ultimate in the Beltway mentality was Brauchli saying that they can cover everything from Washington. When you just make up what you want to be the storyline – I guess you could cover from almost anywhere.

      And then I saw where Broder – showing just what a dinosaur he really is – “hit back” at Reid by saying he’s no Mike Mansfield. ROTFL Yeah – apparently not only can WaPo can cover everything from Washington, they can cover it from the 60s and 70s too. And without any apparent understanding that in our current posture, it’s McConnell who’s no Mansfield. But hey, who am I to refute the oracle.

        • Mary says:

          Ah- well, a little area like the west coast isn’t that important and I guess as long the Governator has the capacity to tweet, WaPo has us covered.

          • fatster says:

            California? Oh, Mary, ’tis but a disappearing dream. Actually, disappeared dream. Going down Grover Norquist’s bathtub drain quicker’n you can say “Bye”. It’s Grover’s test to make sure the drain will be functioning properly for The Big One.

            Thnx so much for commenting @ 24 on this Carter resignation matter. I linked to it near the end of the comments to EW’s excellent article, “CIA Asked to Destroy Torture Tapes . . . “, hoping you’d see it ’cause I figured you’d have quite a few lively comments to make. You do not disappoint.

        • Mary says:

          Yeah, nifty how Broder loves Mansfield bc he reached across the aisle to help out Nixon on war and economic crisis issues – but apparently the contrast he makes is Mansfield v. Reid instead of realizing the irony of the Mansfield v. McConnell comparison that would, to someone relatively sentient, come first to mind.

        • knowbuddhau says:

          Thanks to both you and Mary (at that time, I was only up to trigonometry). It’s very interesting to learn about the inner dynamics at play.

          @bmaz @11: ObamaRahma, I love it!

  7. skdadl says:

    CP says he’s not out yet, that a court has simply ordered him freed on bail, under house arrest in Switzerland and electronic monitoring, but the Justice Ministry still has to decide whether to appeal that order.

  8. fatster says:

    In addition to your post, EW, and Greenwald’s, David Day also has one up now on this subject at the “Newsdesk”. Disheartening stuff.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      The civil liberties/anti-torture psychologists were on this even earlier, with Stephen Soldz probably picking up the WashPost story/announcement earliest.

      I wrote something last night, as well, and this was my conclusion (italics in the original: “It appears the battle over Guantanamo has been waged, and the human rights community and the prisoners lost.” Soldz put it this way:

      It’s beginning to look as if the… Obama administration may be purging those officials who don’t understand that human rights take last place, after placating the intelligence community and looking strong so Liz Cheney doesn’t mock them.

      I think what finally tipped Carter is hinted at the end of the Post story. In effect, it suggests Carter suffered the fate of the squeezed lemon, ignored or shut out by those in the administration to his right, and treated as a traitor or weakling by those to this left. From the Post story:

      Carter, who worked on Vets for Obama during the presidential campaign last year, attempted to build relationships with the human rights community, which remains critical of the current administration’s decision to employ a reformed system of military commissions. Even so, groups such as Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union spurned an invitation to visit the Guantanamo Bay facility, saying that such a tour would be meaningless unless they could meet independently with detainees.

      When your best-laid work is spurned by those with whom you have previously placed your heart, then the bitterness and sense of impotence set in quickly. I’d want to spend time with my family too… to recover. Hopefully, he’ll be back blogging soon, and realize his loyalty to Obama is misplaced, and tell the community what is really going on inside the WH (not that we don’t have a pretty good idea, eh Rahm? eh Jones?).

      Et tu, Obama?

      • fatster says:

        Thanks so much, Jeff, for shining yet more light on this curious matter–and seeing into the heart of it, the integrity that seems to have informed Carter’s decision. I’ll go read your entire post in just a jiffy.

      • fatster says:

        I was unable to leave a comment at “Invictus,” Jeff, but I did read your fine article. Seems the message at the WH these days is: “Persons of conscience need not apply.” What a confounding state of affairs we have here!

  9. BoxTurtle says:

    What does Obama tell his children for something like this?

    “He was a Bad Man and he was going to make Daddy release terrorists who would try to hurt your puppy. He’s better Gone Away, isn’t he?”

    Boxturtle (Don’t worry, Mr. President. Dick’s children know what he did and they still love him)

    • Mary says:

      I’ve wondered that before – he’s girls are plenty smart and they’ll grow up and comprehend what he squandered. OTOH, they have Uncle Rahm to teach them cognitive dissonance too.

  10. Mary says:

    You don’t really know what is going on, but bringing my own bias and beliefs, one set of spec would be that Carter has watched Ho go out with honor and with ability to be an effective critic, while Craig was viciously picked away at by humiliating leaked and denigrations. He’s seen his own bailiwick pointed to as a failure. More so, he’s watched the President take a series of steps that will do nothing but make it harder and harder to relocate innocent detainees who were wrongfully held and abused.

    He’s watched Obama destroy options and, Bushlike, recreate a “with us or against us” approach on commissions and the “guilt” of detainees, etc. He’s watched Rahm and he’s seen the air leaking out of Obama’s empty suit.

    If he resigns, he can go back to being an effective critic. He does it before Rahm can carve away at him through leaks. He might wake up Obama to the understanding of consequences. If not, he takes the nasty problem that the TRUE pragmatists (not politicians acting under pretense of pragmatism) were trying to deal with and being stabbed in the back over and says, “Fine Rahm – you won’t let us solve this and you squander our options to achieve nothing of true political advantage – ok, fine, you want to micromanage this and just take potshots at everyone working their butts off and putting their personal credibility on the line; you want it so badly, you can have it; you fix it your way buddy.”

    I said before that Obama isn’t being pragmatic – he’s losing options. Part of that goes to dealing wtih people who do/did have the real big picture in mind and the best interests of the country at heart. It could be that Rahm and Obama are pushing Carter out or that Bush dead enders have squeezed him, but it’s also just as likely that he cam in as an honest broker who believed Obama really wanted to fix the problems and now that he’s seen that isn’t the agenda, he doesn’t see a place for himself in a process that is about hide the ball and perpetuate the problems rather than fix them. That’s the kind of hole you plug with a Jack Goldsmith – not a Philip Carter. And now that Obama and Holder are pledged to the policies of continued, baseless detention without charges – they really may as well go to someone like Goldsmith. He loves the ego stroking; will be able to pontificate about how he was right all along; they’ll be able to tout the “bipartisanship” of their torture approach; Obama’s Sol Gen will be googly eyed over her boy getting the nod; they’ll be able to get gushy letters from the Gushy Letter Boys (Philbin, Comey, Thompson, etc.) and more importantly, they’ll be able to keep sacrificing the nation for Obama’s pride and politics by calling on someone with a proven track record of being willing to go that route as long as someone strokes his ego.

    Golly – I’m starting to feel like a Democratic strategist.
    Or not.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall as Prof. Johnsen negotiates with Eric Holder about what her job and authority really will be. What will they ask or demand and what will she? It’s hard to imagine believing commitments Holder might give her, harder to believe Rahm Emanuel, the new White House counsel or Obama will back her or Holder. More likely they will be at odds from day one.

    The extension of White House control over the DoJ during the BushCheney regime is as much a part of its newfound political power as domestic spying or a self-crippled Congress. It won’t give any of those powers back without a destructive, McCain-like temper tantrum.

    Ms. Johnsen’s role as head of the OLC would be to define the limits of federal law and, hence, the limits (and opportunities) of the executive branch as a constitutionally defined and statutorily limited arm of government. If the White House doesn’t like the laws as written, it is supposed to change the law. Nowadays, it changes attorneys. Or it turns a blind eye to obstruction of justice.

    An opportunity to head the OLC, co-opted by Addington into his and, by extension, the White House’s political fiefdom means this is no longer a post I would be happy for Prof. Johnsen to accept.

    • bmaz says:

      I know the current trend is to praise GregCraig and think ill of Bauer; but lest us not forget that the man with two first names had some rather glaring issues (for one, if his job was judicial nominations, it is a rather lame record he amassed; the FISA turnaround during the campaign another one) and I think Bauer is actually a pretty decent and competent choice. Although he does not carry the foreign portfolio Craig did, that is not really the job of WH Counsel necessarily anyway.

    • Mary says:

      Johnson will be in a responsive posting, not a policy generating slot. IOW, she’ll get/give input on what she’s asked to give input on and nothing else. That’s why I’ve felt the delay was pretty intentional by Obamaco, so they could get lots of their policies in place and set and won’t be needing to go to OLC for much on them.

      She only gets to define if asked to, and that’s going to depend on someone wanting protection – they’ve basically already covered flanks on protection.

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