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FISC Makes Far Better Amicus Choices Than I Expected

I’ve long been skeptical about the potential efficacy of the amicus provision in USA Freedom Act, especially because the government can always withhold information.

But the FISC (and FISCR’s, they make clear) choices for potential amici is far better than I expected.

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Laura Donohue, besides being an important voice on surveillance reform, is one of the few people who has as weedy an understanding of the details of the surveillance programs as I do. Plus, unlike me, she can argue the legal aspects of it with authority.

Marc Zwillinger has represented at least one corporation — Yahoo, in its 2007-8 challenge to Protect American Act — before FISC already (as well as an industry push for the right to provide more transparency numbers), and is currently representing Apple in an EDNY discussion about back doors. He even has experience not receiving notice of unclassified details necessary to his arguments before FISC!! At a PCLOB hearing on this topic, he and others predicted he’d likely be among those picked. Voila!

John Cline is probably best known to readers of this blog for the representation he gave Scooter Libby. But he did so because he has represented a wide range of defendants dealing with classified information — he’s one of the best on such issues. That perspective is one that even most (though not all) judges on the FISC lack, and I’m impressed they would let someone have vision on both processes.

Jonathan Cedarbaum was acting head at OLC for a while, though mostly worked on domestic policy issues. Though I think he did work on some cybersecurity issues. The closest tie I know of to counterterrorism came in his role on the Boumedienne case, for which he was targeted by right wingers while at DOJ.

I’m perhaps least thrilled about Amy Jeffress (whose father also represented Scooter Libby) on the panel. She has a ton of experience on all kinds of national security cases — but overwhelmingly as a prosecutor. She almost got the Assistant Attorney for National Security job until it was given to John Carlin. While a top advisor to Eric Holder, she likely saw some things that might get debated at FISC (in the same way Rachel Brand and Elisabeth Collins Cook were involved in things at DOJ during the Bush Administration that PCLOB has reviewed), which might lead her to be more invested in the government outcome than I’d like. But from everything I know she’s a very good lawyer.

All in all, a far better collection of lawyers than I expected, and any of them is a better choice than Preston Burton.

 

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.)