Friday, July 14, 2006

Another reason to oppose the Haynes nomination

By Nancy Jane Moore

It turns out that William J. Haynes, the pro-torture Defense Department general counsel who Bush wants to put on the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, is a protege of David S. Addington.

And David Addington, according to The New Yorker, is "[t]he legal mind behind the White House's war on terror."

Jane Mayer's comprehensive report (a brilliant piece of reporting that everyone needs to read) in the magazine's July 3 issue concludes that Addington, who is Dick Cheney's chief of staff and has served as his top legal adviser for years, is the lawyer behind the Bush Administration's "New Paradigm." According the Mayer, this doctrine provides that:
The President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it.
Even a Republican who worked in the Reagan Justice Department thinks Addington goes too far. As quoted by Mayer, Bruce Fein says Addington and other White House lawyers
staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite alarming. He's said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to collect intelligence, to open mail, to commit torture, and to use electronic surveillance. If you used the President's reasoning, you could shut down Congress for leaking too much. His war powers allow him to declare anyone an illegal combatant. All the world's a battlefield -- according to his view he could kill someone in Lafayette Park if he wants! It's got the sense of Louis XIV: "I am the State."
And this is the reaction of a Republican who voted for Bush! Twice!

Virtually no legal scholars share Addington's opinion on executive power, Mayer says. Actually, I don't think you need to be a legal scholar to reject his ideas; all you need to have done was to pay attention in high school civics when they talked about the three branches of government and the concept of checks and balances. Or in history class, when they mentioned that George Washington declined to become king.

But Addington's opinion prevailed in the White House, which is a little short on great legal minds. Or even people who paid attention in civics or history class, apparently.

And Haynes, Mayer says, was his protege. Addington helped him get the Defense Department general counsel job. From Mayer's article, it looks like they are two peas in a pod when it comes to executive power and ignoring those in the know, like military lawyers.

In Haynes we have a potential judge who is pro-torture and wants to eviscerate the Constitution by putting all the power in the White House. He has done great damage in his current job -- just ask the military lawyers who've been testifying on Capitol Hill this week. Giving him a lifetime role as a judge would do even more harm to the country.

But Addington is probably the bigger problem. He's given Cheney and his crew a bogus legal rationale for executive power that they've tried to cram down our throats. Right now the only thing protecting us -- not just the detainees at Guantanamo, but all of us -- from a dictatorship is the 5-3 Supreme Court opinion in Hamden v. Rumsfeld.

Democracy is hard to protect. Sometimes we salvage it by the skin of our teeth. We're teetering on that edge right now.

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