Tag "Dawn Johnsen"

Scott Horton (via hilzoy):

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pull back last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward. [...]

The Justice Department source confirms to me that Brennan has consistently opposed making public the torture memos—and any other details about the operations of the extraordinary renditions program— but this source suggests that concern about the G.O.P.’s roadblock in the confirmation process is the principle reason that the memos were not released. Republican senators have expressed strong reservations about their promised exposure, expressing alarm that a critique of the memos by Justice’s ethics office (Office of Professional Responsibility) will also be released. “There was no ‘direct’ threat,” said the source, “but the message was communicated clearly—if the OLC and OPR memoranda are released to the public, there will be war.” This is understood as a threat to filibuster the nominations of Johnsen and Koh. Not only are they among the most prominent academic critics of the torture memoranda, but are also viewed as the strongest advocates for release of the torture memos on Obama’s legal policy team.

You want a war?  FIne.  We’ll give you war.  If those memos aren’t released, and/or Dawn Johnsen is not confirmed as head of the OLC, JTB will “go nuclear.”  I say this a lot, but I really mean it this time: I will not rest if this stands.  This is a landmark issue for me, and I will scream from the rooftops if I have to.

And damn it, I shouldn’t have to do this.  The Senate Democrats need to grow a pair and stand up to this garbage.  The GOP lost in 2008.  They lost real bad.  They shouldn’t have unilateral authority to blackmail the President into not doing something within his prerogative as Chief Executive.  The want to filibuster?  FIne.  Let’s have a damn filibuster.  I want to see 24/7 debate on the Senae floor, cots and all.  I want CNN to constantly broadcast for hours on end that the Republican Party supports secret legal opinions, and furthermore, is willing to hold up the entire schedule of the Senate to preserve said memos.  You can even squeeze that on a bumper sticker:

GOP ♥ Secret Legal Opinions

GOP ♥ Torture

If the GOP wants war, we’ll give it to them.

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Of all the appointments so far by the Obama team, I’d have to rank Steven Chu for Energy Secretary as my favorite.  But a close second is now Dawn Johnsen as head of the OLC.  That’s right.  OLC.  As in, Office of Legal Counsel.

The OLC is responsible for providing legal opinions for the executive branch to determine legal courses of action for executive policies.  It was from this official perch that John Yoo issued his infamous torture memo, something that intelligence agencies called the “golden shield“, because of its amazingly far-reaching conclusions on the legality of virtually every interrogation technique.  It is also from here that memos were released justifying President Bush’s use of warantless surveillance.  Basically, if the OLC says it’s legal, then the executive branch does it, which is what makes the OLC such a dangerous institution.

For this reason, it is important to appoint strong-willed and talented lawyers to this office.  You basically need independent minds that will tell you no, not charlatans who craft ridiculously flawed memos to back whatever David Addington asks for.  This is why Dawn Johnsen is an awesome choice.  Here she is on the torture memo:

The shockingly flawed content of this memo, the deficient processes that led to its issuance, the horrific acts it encouraged, the fact that it was kept secret for years and that the Bush administration continues to withhold other memos like it–all demand our outrage.

Yes, we’ve seen much of it before. And yes, we are counting down the remaining months. But we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power. Otherwise, our own deep cynicism, about the possibility for a President and presidential lawyers to respect legal constraints, itself will threaten the rule of law–and not just for the remaining nine months of this administration, but for years and administrations to come.

OLC, the office entrusted with making sure the President obeys the law instead here told the President that in fighting the war on terror, he is not bound by the laws Congress has enacted. That Congress lacks the authority to regulate the interrogation and treatment of enemy combatants. . . .

John Yoo, the memo’s author, has the gall to continue to defend the legal reasoning in this memo, in the face even of Bush administration OLC head Jack Goldsmith’s harsh criticism–and withdrawal–of the memo. Not only that, Yoo attempts to spin the memo’s advice on presidential power as “near boilerplate” . . .

I know (many of us know) Yoo’s statement to be false. And not merely false, but irresponsibly and dangerously false in a way that impugns OLC’s integrity over time and threatens to undermine public faith in the possibility that any administration can be expected to adhere to the rule of law.

And here she is in October 2007:

This is a perfect choice in order restore credibility to a completely damaged institution.

Btw, I’m about 4/5 done with The Dark Side by Jane Mayer, and it’s truly disturbing.  I should have a book review ready soon, and a significant protion of it will focus on who, in my opinion, were the most dangerous men in government: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and, most of all, David Addington.

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