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It has been widely held that Bush is a puppet of stronger men hiding behind the scenes.  Identified Puppetmasters include Karl Rove (Political Strategy) and Dick Cheney (all things Secret and Dark).

With a new book by Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Council, we now know that with respect to legal decision guiding the Administration in the "War on Terror", there is one man in government who was serving as Bush's Brain.

This man was responsible for pushing all of the policies the Administration pursued that broadened executive power and restricted civil liberties under the guise of "fighting terror": David Addington

The below analyisis is based on the first of a three-part exclusive series by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate that contains interviews with and excerpts from the writing of Jack Goldsmith, Head of the Office of Legal Council from 12/03- 7/04.  This report offers an insiders view of the decision-makers of Presidential Policy in the War on terror.

Following 9/11, Top legal advisors within the Bush Administration formed a working group outside the normal structural channels of government to advise the president on the legality of presidential directives in anti-terrorism policy.  This group of men dubbed themselves the "War Council", and according to Jack Goldsmith, from 12/03 through his resignation in July 2004, consisted of the following people (noting their positions at the time):

Alberto Gonzales- Legal Counsel to President Bush
Tim Flanigan- Deputy Counsel to the President
David Addington- Legal counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney (Now Cheney's Chief of Staff)
Jack Goldsmith- Former Head of OLC
John Yoo- Former Deputy in OLC
William J. "Jim" Haynes II- Legal Counsel of the DoD

Arguably, as the President's Counsel, Gonzales was the highest ranking member of the War Council, but Jack Goldsmith details the real power structure within the group:

Addington's hard-line nonaccommodation stance always prevailed when the lawyers met to discuss legal policy issues in Alberto Gonzales' office. During these meetings, Gonzales himself would sit quietly in his wing chair, occasionally asking questions but mostly listening as the querulous Addington did battle with whomever was seeking to "go soft." It was Gonzales' responsibility to determine what to advise the president after the lawyers had kicked the legal policy matters around. But I only knew him to disagree with Addington once, on an issue I cannot discuss, and on that issue the president overruled Gonzales and sided with the Addington position.

Thus, we now know with insider detail who's legal voice held the most sway over the President.  It was clearly David Addington.

Goldsmith goes on to describe Addington's Philosophy:

  1.  That Executive Power was unitarily supreme in the fighting the War on terror.
  1.  That any involvement of congress or the courts in shaping anti-terror policy was an unnecessary and dangerous usurpation of Presidential Authority.

These beliefs fell on willing ears in the White House, as it shaped their policy in the war on terror, but also in almost all other Policy Measures.  This broadened executive power brought us torture, suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless surveillance and a host of decisions and programs that restrict constitutional freedoms.  There was no oversight by design.

Goldsmith sheds further light on how the monomaniacal Addington dealt with dissenters in his quest for unfettered executive power:

As the complaints grew and grew, as the pressure to change course increased, Addington became more and more insistent that the administration was doing the right thing, and he stuck to his guns with an ever-firmer grip. Many times when Addington faced enormous resistance, I thought to myself, "He'll have to back down now." But he rarely did. And he never did on something he thought was important unless an immediate and unavoidable disaster would result. I grudgingly admired Addington's perverse integrity, even when I thought his judgments were crazy.

Perverted integrity and crazy judgement are all well and good when they are confined to an academic discussion between colleagues, but when this voice is the only voice connected to the Prsident's ear, then God Help our Country.

Fates of the 2003-2004 War Council Members
David Addington, Bush's Legal Brain, remains in our Government.  Addington Replaced Scooter Libby as Cheney's Chief of Staff.

Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General but recently resigned, in large part due to his role in the decisions made by the War Council.

Tim Flanigan
was nominated to be Deputy AG under Gonzales, but his nomination was withdrawn under intense pressure from Democrats.

John Yoo and Jack Goldsmith are now in academic positions outside our Government.

Jim Haynes remains DoD Counsel.
A Final Note
It is interesting to note that the DOJ under Ashcroft and Comey mounted the most successful stance against the policies of War Council.  Perhaps in response to this last bastion of oversight within the Executive, Bush installed Gonzales as Attorney General and sought to install Flanigan as his Deputy.  Now that Gonazales is gone, we can only hope that the new acting AG, Paul Clement will be a moderating influence on Unitary Executive Legal policy.

Goldsmith notes Clement was often "soft" with respect to Addington's hard line:

Paul Clement, the deputy to Solicitor General Ted Olson and the best Supreme Court litigator of his generation, said the court's action [decision to review a lower court's approval of the government's detention, without charge or trial, of Yaser Hamdi] was bad news. He explained that although we had solid legal arguments, the Supreme Court might not accept traditional wartime detention in the seemingly indefinite and ill-defined war on terrorism.

"Why don't we just go to Congress and get it to sign off on the whole detention program?" I asked, explaining that the Supreme Court would have a much harder time striking down a wartime detention program that had Congress' explicit support. Clement concurred, as did John Bellinger, Condoleezza Rice's legal adviser, and Department of Defense general counsel Jim Haynes. Those men had made this argument before. They had always been shot down, just as I was about to be.

In addition to the Lithwick article series with video at Slate, Goldsmith will be interviewed today (9/7) by Terry Gross on NPR.

Originally posted to drational on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 05:03 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Addington is Cheney's brain (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lysias, arkylib, drational, planetclaire4

    Scooter Libby was his heart

    Addington is the architect of a legal strategy to undermine and ultimately destroy our constitutional democracy.  In my book, that makes Addington nobodies brain, but rather an enemy of the people.  

    What sad state of affairs.

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 05:09:58 AM PDT

    •  Very strong ties to Cheney (6+ / 0-)

      Addington has been tied nefariously with Cheney a very long time:

      From 1984 to 1987 [Addington] was counsel for the House committees on intelligence and international relations. He served as a staff attorney on the joint U.S. House-Senate committee investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal as an assistant to Congressman Dick Cheney, and was one of the principal authors of a controversial minority report issued at the conclusion of the joint committee's investigation.

      Upon doing a little biography checking, what surprised me most about Addington's influence was this:

      David Addington was a key advocate of...more than 750 other signing statements the administration has issued since taking office--a record that far outstrips that of any other president.

      This last link provides an excellent review of Addington's background, his kindred spirit relationship with Cheney, and importantly how Addington showed his stripes while working for Cheney when Cheney was Sec'y of Defense.

      As the Pentagon general counsel, Addington soon alienated the armed forces' judge advocate generals by authoring a memo ordering the proudly independent corps of career military attorneys to report to the general counsel of each service.
      The JAG officers fought back and, with Congress's support, remained independent. But Addington, typically, found another way to prevail. He wrote a memo decreeing that only the general counsel of each service--not the JAGs--could issue final legal opinions.
      After the 9/11 attacks, the JAG officers were marginalized from the decision making on military tribunals and detainee treatment policies. They became among President Bush's most vocal critics within the military.

      Wow, that puts the firing of the US Attorneys in a new light.  Though Congressional investigations are trying to go to the Oval Office, the wizard behind that curtain may have been in the OVP.

      Anyway, go ahead read the rest of that story. It probably was well covered in a diary at the time of its publication (May 2006) but it's worth a re-read given what has been revealed since then.

      •  Important insight (3+ / 0-)

        This may also explain the emphasis on purging and replacement with Federalist Society appointees.

        All of the NSLs and warrantless wiretaps and other domestic actions that impaired Civil Liberty would need US Attorneys to be on board with using the tools.
        Miers wanted a clean slate, and this could be one of the reasons....

        In 2004-2005, The Administration sought to install War Council members Gonzales and Flanigan at the top of DOJ, which was the prior source of the intra-executive resistance to Unitary Executive (Comey and Ashcroft).  They couldn't use Addington because of his checkered past, but they could certainly use Gonzo, who according to the Goldsmith report was Addington's lap dog in the War Council.

        •  How did Yoo get into this War Council? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          As mere deputy head of OLC, he was quite junior to the other members.

          I continue to wonder who told Yoo to stay behind in his office the morning of 9/11, when the Justice Department building was being evacuated.  It looks from this story as if it wasn't anybody in the Justice Department.

          The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

          by lysias on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 06:13:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I suppose it was his (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            fealty to all things kingly.
            He had a knack for writing Unitary Executive legal analysis.  Since they wanted to torture, wiretap and detain without oversight, they needed a scribe with devotion to executive power.

            There has been quite a bit of commentary that Yoo's boss at OLC, Bybee, was milquetoast and not at all forceful in his opinions.  I suspect that they brought Yoo into the circle because OLC was a potential check on their overreach and if he was wishywashy or ineffectual as a leader, they needed his underling to help enforce party discipline at OLC.

            You will recall that Yoo's reporting directly to the war council (circumventing his Boss-in name at DOJ, Ashcroft) was a major source of contention for Ashcroft.

  •  Also worth reading (4+ / 0-)

    Jane Mayer's profile of Addington, in the New Yorker, July 2006. Long, and illuminating.

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 05:38:23 AM PDT

  •  Lest we get too lost in the (il)legalities (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OHdog, drational, planetclaire4

    This all only works because people, those in Congress and those on the streets, are paralyzed with doubt and fear about this administration and the world in which they live.

    Perhaps it is time for the administration to learn what fear and doubt feel like.

    And this is not something Congress is going to do until it sees that the alternative is far worse.

    They do not see that. And perhaps because, as many say here, Americans no longer have what it takes to be free of tyrants.

    Because it looks a lot like what people in other countries are doing right now.

    But at least we are free to do as we are told in comfort.

    What this war needs is more cowbell.

    by cskendrick on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 06:02:53 AM PDT

    •  For now... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lysias, planetclaire4

      But at least we are free to do as we are told in comfort.

      All Empires day in the sun must end.

      At some point we will have to pay for the Wars, environmental damage, etc.

      The freedoms we have given away will be regretted when we are not so comfortable.

      •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lysias, planetclaire4

        People in the United States are behaving precisely as persons under monarchy have always done.

        They have kept their heads down, their expectations low, and their dreams curbed.

        To the detriment of every pursuit in their lives.

        Our children see this, and die inside before they have a chance to live.

        We should all be ashamed of ourselves, rather than busy ourselves putting the brand of slavery on their hearts and minds voluntarily.

        What this war needs is more cowbell.

        by cskendrick on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 07:18:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Addington's whole theory of Unitary Power (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lysias, drational, planetclaire4

    is concocted out of whole cloth, and not based on either the law nor on historical imperatives.  The claims Addington has made have been made before - for centuries.  Every dictator, despot, emperor and king in the miserable history of the world have made exactly the same claims:  I am the monarch; question me at your peril.

    As long as nation states were ruled by kings, the rules were pretty much enforced that way, but in 1215 a funny thing happened:  

    The Norman barons forced King John to grant them certain rights in the Magna Carta - the Great Charter - and those rights included a say in what was going on and trial by their peers - rather than answering solely to the king's whims.

    Fifty years later in 1265, Simon de Montfort summoned the first elected Parliament. This set the scene for the  "Model Parliament" of 1295.

    In 1648, conflict between the executive and the legislature came to a head during the reign of Charles I.  Charles claimed he ruled by Divine Right (similar to George Walker Bush, who has identified himself as having been picked by God to lead us), and that the King Can Do No Wrong (sound familiar?).

    Parliament had the backbone to stand up to Charles' absurd claims, and settled the issue by lopping off the royal head in 1649.

    The Framers of the Constitution were well aware of the history of the English kings; our legal system and governance were modeled to some extent after the Engish system (along with valuable input from the Iroquois Confederacy), and it is no accident that the Framers created the Legislature as the first among equals.

    The Legislature is the only branch of government directly selected by the People; the Executive is chosen by the Electoral College, and the Judiciary is appointed.

    Congress has the power (if not perhaps the will) to impeach and replace the Executive or the Judiciary.  Neither the Courts nor the President have a reciprocal power over Congress.

    Not a single court has ratified Addington's absurd claims of unitary executive power; to the contrary, Federal judge after Federal judge, Republican and Democrat alike have slapped down such assertions in case after case, but the intransigence of the Bush gang of thugs, their continuing refusal to obey the law, has prompted a constitutional crisis . . . and the Democrats have betrayed their constituencey AND the constitution by refusing to fight for our constitutional rights and have taken impeachment off the table.

    Call the bugler and tell him to play Taps.  The Constitution is dead. May I direct all you Kossacks to an obscure  


    The date:  May 1, 1970
    The place: Kent, Ohio

    Read the mimeograph and weep for our democracy.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 07:18:04 AM PDT

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