Thursday, February 7, 2008

Very Curious

Who is Steven Bradbury?
(Plus Update 1 )

It seems that President Bush is willing to hold up all judicial and executive brench nominees to get this one guy confirmed as assistant Attorney general for the Department of Justic'e Office of Legal Counsel.

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, agreed to a deal that allows more than 84 of the President's nominees to go through Senate confirmation. Bush shot the deal down if Bradbury was not among those confirmed. “It’s Brabury, or nobody,” Bush reportedly told Reid. Here it is from Reid

Why does Bush care that much? Let's look into it.

From the New York Times:

"Late last year, Democrats urged the White House to withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s name once and for all and find a new candidate for the post after it was disclosed in news reports in October that he was the author of classified memorandums that gave approval to harsh interrogation techniques, including head slapping, exposure to cold and simulated drowning, even when used in combination.
Mr. Bradbury’s memorandums were described by Democrats as an effort by the Bush administration to circumvent laws prohibiting torture and to undermine a public legal opinion issued by the Justice Department in 2004 that declared torture to be “abhorrent.”

From Talking Points Memo:

"It took two days of hearings for the Senate Judiciary Committee to reinforce its consensus that Michael Mukasey should be attorney general. The panel asked Mukasey tough questions about torture, detentions, surveillance and the president's inherent wartime powers. But those questions might have been misdirected. That's because an obscure Justice Department lawyer, Steven G. Bradbury, the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), might actually be more important to the war on terrorism than the attorney general.
It's also a position that's arguably more important to the administration too, since the OLC chief has the power to issue what former chief Jack Goldsmith
called "an advance pardon" for dubious activities."

So the President wants to nominate a guy that is at the hart of two very contraversal issues, torture, and pardons for alleged misdeeds at Justice and in the White House. Bush wants to put him in the Justice Department. Is it any wonder that the Senate would be reluctant to confirm him. It turns out it is not clear yet that he did not assist in the White House' commission of a crime, in his work at the Office of Legal Counsel .

"Bradbury has been serving as the acting head of the office since early 2005, he's never been confirmed for the spot. Senate Democrats continue to express opposition to Bradbury's nomination and say he remains in the position illegally....In August 2006, three Democratic senators, Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), blocked Bradbury's nomination in a maneuver to compel the Bush administration to disclose more about its warrantless surveillance program. Around that time, President Bush personally quashed a review by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility into the propriety of DOJ lawyers who approved the program. The Democrats countered that they couldn't confirm Bradbury until he was formally cleared of wrongdoing. "

Wow, why would Bush want to make his last stand on a guy this controverasal? Is ego getting in the way of governance?

(Update 1:

Aha! I think I've got it! Listen to Murkasey's comments today:

"Delahunt: You said if an opinion was rendered, that would insulate him from any consequences.

MM: We could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a justice department opinion.

Delahunt: If that opinion was inaccurate and in fact violated a section of US Criminal Code, that reliance is in effect an immunity from any criminal culpability.

MM: Immunity connoted culpability.

Delahunt: This is brand new legal theory.

MM: Disclosure of waterboarding was part of CIA interrogation and permitted by DOJ opinion, would and should bar investigation of people who relied on that opinion.

Delahunt: Let's concede that waterboarding is in contravention of international obligation. If opinion rendered that amounted to malpractice, whoever employed that technique, simply by relying on that opinion would be legally barred from criminal investigation.

MM: If you're talking about legal mistake, there is an inquiry regarding whether properly rendered opinions or didn't. But yes, that bars the person who relied on that opinion from being investigated.

Delahunt: I find that a new legal doctrine. The law is the law.

MM: If it comes to pass that somebody at a later date that the opinion should have been different the person who relied on the opinion cannot be investigated.

Delahunt: Is there a legal precedent.

MM: There is practical consideration.

Delahunt: I can't cite you a case."

So let me get this straight. If Bradbury is appointed and issues opinions that are favorable to the White House, no matter what the laws enacted by Congress require, then the White House is immune from prosicution.

There it is, Congress has just been written out of our government. The President has all the power. He or she can appoint insiders to the Justice Department and basically do whatever he or she wants when his or her appointments, at Justice, write opinions (many secret even from Congress) supporting whatever they want to do. No fear of accountability to anyone.

Are you frightened yet?

1 comment:

Leo said...

I cannot help but remember Maher Arar who was falsely accused of terrorism and sent to Libya where he was tortured at the behest of the US Government. This is a slippery slope.

The sad part in all of this is that the US Government has the resources and had all of the 9/11 terrorists identified but foolish rivalries prevented the FBI and CIA from working together. So the law works but one has to trust the process in order to use it. One has to wonder...