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.)

Liz “BabyDick” Cheney: Obama Not Bloodthirsty Enough

BabyDick has struck again, this time in criticizing Obama’s response to the Israeli attack on a humanitarian flotilla–as well as the killing of an American citizen. Liz Cheney is basically arguing Obama must stand with Israel even when it kills American citizens or it stands with the “Turkish-Syrian-Iranian axis.”

Yesterday, President Obama said the Israeli action to stop the flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip was “tragic.” What is truly tragic is that President Obama is perpetuating Israel’s enemies’ version of events. The Israeli government has imposed a blockade around Gaza because Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction…

President Obama is contributing to the isolation of Israel, and sending a clear signal to the Turkish-Syrian-Iranian axis that their methods for ostracizing Israel will succeed, and will be met by no resistance from America.

There is no middle ground here. Either the United States stands with the people of Israel in the war against radical Islamic terrorism or we are providing encouragement to Israel’s enemies — and our own. Keep America Safe calls on President Obama to reverse his present course and support the state of Israel immediately and unequivocally.

The “Turkish-Syrian-Iranian axis”? That doesn’t even make sense!! We had this woman in a significant Middle Eastern policy role for years?!?!

So now PapaDick’s evil spawn demands that the President of this country ignore the illegal killing of an American in service to her small-minded McCarthyite attacks?

Squabble in Administration over Rule of War, Khadr, Drones

Steven Edwards, one of the four journalists banned from Gitmo for reporting publicly available information, has an important story on squabbles within the Obama Administration about what should be in the recently updated Gitmo military tribunal manual. At issue is whether actions like Khadr’s alleged crime–throwing a grenade during active warfare–should be included.

The officials sought to strip a new commissions manual of a law-of-war murder definition that is central to Khadr’s prosecution in the mortal wounding of Special Forces Sgt. First Class Chris Speer during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, insiders say.

Omission of the segment could have also obliged prosecutors to trim or abandon “up to one-third” of its cases, according to one inside estimate.

In a turf battle familiar from the Bush Administration, the dispute pits State–Harold Koh–against DOD–General Counsel Jeh Johnson.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates signed off on the manual with the contested “comment” intact after Jeh Johnson, his legal adviser, went head-to-head with Koh, one official recounted.

“Harold Koh doesn’t have any authority over the defence department,” said this official. “The general counsel of DOD was fighting Koh on it; he advises Secretary Gates . . . who is going to follow his own lawyer.”

Of particular interest, Koh appears to have shared the concerns laid out here–that if we treated Khadr’s alleged attack as a war crimes violation, it would put our own use of drones in the same category (though I imagine it is in that category in any case).

Along with Koh, two OLC attorneys opposed the inclusion of murder in the manual. From the sounds of things, others in the Obama Administration overrode these two OLC attorneys. Which I guess is a lot easier to do when there’s no Assistant Attorney General at OLC to champion such battles. One more benefit to the unilateralists of scotching Dawn Johnsen’s nomination, I guess. But it does raise questions about whether OLC under Obama has gotten even more politicized than under Bush?

One more note before I send you off to read the whole thing. This article doesn’t mention Daniel Meltzer, the Deputy White House Counsel who resigned earlier this month to spend more time with his law students. But the timing of it would certainly line up.

Updated: Corrected reference to specific OLC lawyers–my post went beyond what Edwards wrote in his story.

Lindsey Graham: For McCarthyism before He Was Against It

Zachary Roth raises a really important point about Lindsey Graham (aka Rahm’s Attorney General). Though in recent days Graham has come out against Liz Cheney’s McCarthyism, he was one of the Republicans who started this whole witch hunt last November by signing a letter (authored by Chuck Grassley) asking for a details on those who had defended detainees in the past:

To better understand the scope of these apparent conflicts of interest, Senator Grassley asked for the following information:(1) The names of political appointees in the Department who represented detainees, worked for organizations advocating on behalf of detainees, or worked for organizations advocating on terrorism or detainee policy; (2) The cases or projects that these appointees worked on with respect to detainees prior to joining the Justice Department; (3) The cases or projects relating to detainees that they have worked on since joining the Justice Department; and (4) A list of all political appointees who have been instructed to, or have voluntarily recused themselves from working on specific detainee cases, projects, or matters pending before the courts or at the Justice Department.

Unfortunately, your response to Senator Grassley’s request was less than encouraging as you repeatedly stated you would merely “consider” the request. It is imperative that the Committee have this information so we can assure the American people that the Department is in fact formulating terrorism and detainee policy without bias or preconceived beliefs.

In addition to the information requested at the hearing, we ask that you also provide responses to the following related questions:

(1) Have any ethics waivers been granted to individuals working on terrorism or detainee issues pursuant to President Obama’s Executive Order dated January 21, 2009, titled “Ethical Considerations for Executive Branch Employees?” (2) What are the Department’s criteria for recusing an individual who previously lobbied on detainee issues, represented specific detainees, worked on terrorism or detainee policy for advocacy groups, or formulated terrorism or detainee policy? (3) What is the scope of recusal for each of the political appointees who have recused themselves from working on specific detainee cases, projects, or matters? (e.g. is an individual who previously represented a detainee recused only from matters related to that individual or from other detainees?) Please provide a detailed listing of the scope of each recusal.

Now, Zach says Graham’s office has not yet responded to his inquiry for clarification on this issue.

But Zach, like me, seems to think this is a significant issue given that Graham is apparently being treated like a good faith partner on efforts to close Gitmo. Are we really going to compromise on Constitutional issues with Graham, when in six months time he could be back scaremongering with the McCarthyites again?

Mukasey’s Muddle

Say what you will about Michael Mukasey, but usually he can craft a fairly logical argument.

That’s not, however, true of this muddled op-ed in the WSJ. The op-ed attempts to draw an equivalence between lawyers–but not civil liberties organizations–that have represented Gitmo detainees and Yoo and Bybee (and, by association, though he doesn’t admit it, Michael Mukasey). But the muddle that results demonstrates as well as anything how conflicted and illogical Mukasey’s own position is.

Mukasey starts by asserting a parallel between three different sets of lawyers:

  • Bernie Madoff’s lawyer
  • Yoo and Bybee “for legal positions they took as to whether interrogation techniques devised and proposed by others were lawful—a campaign that also featured casual denunciations of them as purveyors of torture”
  • Lawyers in private practice who represented detainees and “have been portrayed as in-house counsel to al Qaeda”

Now, Mukasey misrepresents why Yoo and Bybee are being attacked. It’s not because of the legal positions they took, it’s because of the process by which they purportedly came to those opinions.

But look how quickly claiming a parallel between these three groups of lawyers–two engaged in antagonistic proceedings, the third not–to this step.

A lawyer who represents a party in a contested matter has an ethical obligation to make any and all tenable legal arguments that will help that party. A lawyer in public service, particularly one dealing with sensitive matters of national security, has the obligation to authorize any step or practice the law permits in order to keep the nation and its citizens safe.

Mukasey moves from legal representation of a client to–in Mukasey’s own words–“authoriz[ing] any step or practice the law permits … to keep the nation … safe.” Mukasey is now saying that Yoo and Bybee authorized torture, rather than analyzing statutes such that their client (whoever Mukasey wants to claim that is, because it changes) can authorize torture, based on Yoo’s legal advice. (Note, as AG, Mukasey may well have authorized such things, but the arguments folks have made to defend Yoo all presume he didn’t do the actual authorization, which would suggest he made the policy decision.)

And never mind the unquestioned assumption that lawyers are obligated to do this “in order to keep the nation … safe,” suggesting that the purported efficacy of the torture somehow changed the legal obligations involved.

In other words, these are not at all parallel cases. One is protecting the law, the process of the law. The other is claiming to protect the country, with a pretty twisted definition of the role of the lawyers involved.

Read more

A Blowjob for Liz “BabyDick” Cheney

Joe Hagan has an epic softball in the New York Magazine describing PapaDick Cheney’s plan to salvage his legacy. Or rather, Liz “BabyDick” Cheney’s plan to salvage Daddy’s legacy, and with it, launch her own career. (At several points, the piece comes close to suggesting PapaDick’s mental acuity is finally going the way of his heart.) It relies on such hard-hitting sources as Rush Limbaugh, Elliott Abrams, former Cheney press aide Pete Williams, and Michael Goldfarb saying, “You have a little crush on her … It’s hard not to.”

Since I’ve mentioned Pete Williams, this description of how much NBC loves the Cheneys is one of the best parts of the article.

Fox is a regular pulpit, of course, but Liz is also all over NBC, where she happens to be social friends with Meet the Press host David Gregory (whose wife worked with Liz ’s husband at the law firm Latham & Watkins), family friends with Justice Department reporter Pete Williams (Dick Cheney’s press aide when he was secretary of Defense), and neighborhood friends with Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, daughter of Carter-administration national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Mika criticized Dick Cheney on her show last year, the former vice-president sent her a box of chocolate cupcakes.

Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC pundit who engaged in a particularly testy shouting match on Good Morning America with Liz Cheney over waterboarding, says the networks have allowed her a high degree of control over her appearances. “She had up to that point been completely accustomed to having interviews go her way and ceded on her terms,” he observes. “She has been careful to make sure that the interviews worked that way.”

Though somehow Hagan missed the detail from the Libby trial, Cheney’s Press Secretary explaining that Cheney got to set the agenda when he appeared on Meet the Press. Under David Gregory’s watch, I guess that has only gotten to be more true.

In the whole 8-page article, there’s just this hint that BabyDick’s constant press assault might be about legal liability for war crimes rather than political legacy Read more

Rachel Needs to Start a “Hall of Afraid”

Rachel Maddow needs to start a Hall of Afraid of all the big talkers who talk a big show on Fox and elsewhere, but are afraid to go debate Rachel. Last week, Liz Cheney challenged Keith Olbermann to a duel, but refused to show up to debate Rachel. And now Joe Lieberman is hiding from a girl (albeit one who’s taller than Joe).

I also want to tell our viewers that we invited Senator Lieberman to come onto this show tonight. His office did not even bother to respond to our requests.

Senator Lieberman, you should know you have an open invitation — as you long have had — to come on this show. I promise you will get a fair shake. Actually, at this point, I promise to not only buy you a shake, I will buy you a cookie if you come on this show.

I’m envisioning YouTubes of all these invites, placed next to pictures of the cowards who refuse to defend their own ideas.

Liz “BabyDick” Cheney Returns

It was inevitable. Given the news over the weekend that DOJ might investigate PapaDick Cheney, we had to expect Liz "BabyDick" Cheney would be out again defending her Daddy (and, just as inevitably, the press would give her the soap box to do so).

But as more and more investigations start to focus on her Daddy, BabyDick sounds more and more pathetic. For example, here’s her attempt to scold Democrats for upholding the rule of law.

CHENEY: His reaction to the story that we may well be prosecuting folks, I’m happy to talk about that. … You know, he is very angry, as you’ve heard him say publicly. You know the notion that this administration is going to come into office and they’re going to prosecute the brave men and women who carried out this program that kept America safe. It is, it is un-American. It’s something that hasn’t happened before in this country, in terms of somebody taking office and then starting to prosecute people who carried out policies that they disagreed with, you know, in the previous administration. He’s been very public about that.[my emphasis]

Um, no. Depending on who you ask, Holder is considering prosecuting either those who overstepped the stated policy and/or those–like her Daddy–who ignored the law when they developed that policy. But BabyDick has to characterize a potential investigation in terms that conflict with everything Obama and Holder have said about a torture investigation so people don’t note that her–and her Daddy’s–cries of "un-American!!" are really just self-serving claptrap.

As if it would be un-American to tell PapaDick he has to follow the law.

Not only didn’t he–as the guy who redirected efforts in Afghanistan to an illegal war of choice in Iraq–keep us safe. But just about everything he did was un-American.

Liz Cheney: Calling My Daddy a Torturer Is Libelous

I just got home and am wiped out (bmaz kept me out partying in NYC), so I thought I’d throw put this up for discussion [JimWhite is probably right I don’t want to say "throw"]. 

BabyDick says:

  • She hasn’t seen the memos she’s convinced show torture was effective (no mention of whether she saw the IG report which says torture isn’t effective)
  • She still ignores the part of Admiral Blair’s statement that shows we only got general info from torture–like the 10 pieces of intelligence we got after waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 83 times
  • She says respect for the law is a "policy difference"
  • She invokes libel if we call her Daddy or those incompetent contractors who waterboarded KSM 183 times torturers

You want to argue that last point in court, BabyDick? Because I sure do think that PapaDick and Mitchell’s contractors are torturers.

Liz Cheney’s Non-Denial #2: Daddy Suggested–But CIA Refused to Execute–Waterboarding

A few weeks ago, Liz "BabyDick" Cheney took the the airwaves to defend her Daddy’s torture regime. But she very pointedly and repeatedly refused to deny a charge Norah O’Donnell challenged her to deny: that PapaDick was the "prime mover" of torture.

Check: According to his daughter, PapaDick Cheney was the prime mover on the torture policy.

Yesterday, BabyDick was refusing to deny allegations again. This time, that PapaDick had ordered up torture of an Iraqi so he would "reveal" ties between Iraq and al Qaeda.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: There were some reports this week that the Vice President’s Office, back in 2003, in April 2003, I believe, sent some sort of word, to Iraq, that a detainee in custody should be waterboarded in order to get information, to establish whether there’s a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda or more information on weapons of mass destruction.


You’ve explained one part of it, I just want to ask you to explain another part of it. The report though that the vice president’s office did ask specifically to have information about Iraq-al Qaeda connections presented to this detainee, do you deny that?

LIZ CHENEY: I think that it’s important for us to have all the facts out. And and, the first and most important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program, this was an important program, it saved American lives. Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the Vice President would not substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA. [my emphasis]

More generally, BabyDick’s non-denial makes four points:

  • Two CIA officials said waterboarding was not used (with Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but BabyDick doesn’t note that) to establish such a link
  • The people claimed to be waterboarded are not any of the three on whom waterboarding was used
  • Lawrence Wilkerson’s story should not be trusted because he has made a cottage industry of attacking Cheney
  • CIA made the final decision on torture

But see what she doesn’t deny? That Cheney suggested–but CIA refused–to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi. Look at precisely what the Daily Beast reported.

In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” Read more