Saturday, March 18, 2006

Devil's Advocates

Raw Story & Keith Olbermann have warned that a big-scoop is coming out tonight in U.S. News and World Report. Specifically, the news magazine will report that White House lawyers advocated for warrantless searches of "terrorism" suspects--domestic suspects--right after 9/11:
Soon after the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, lawyers for the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that allowed warrantless electronic surveillance inside the United States could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects' homes and businesses without court approval.
According to two current and former government officials, the Bush Administration lawyers presented the arguments to senior FBI officials who expressed strong reservations about the proposal.
It could not be determined whether any warrantless physical searches had been carried out under the legal authority cited by the Administration, but at least one defense attorney representing a terrorism suspect has alleged that his law office and home may have been searched without a court warrant.
That's right: black bag jobs. So who are these lawyers? The same crew that brought us torture memos and assorted deletions from the US Constitution. One such Devil's Advocate? Check out today's Knight Ridder profile of David Addington:
Most people have never heard of David Addington, but he's been at the center of nearly every controversy shaking the White House.
President Bush's eavesdropping program, the so-called torture memo, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the administration's penchant for secrecy - all bear his fingerprints. Addington's influence is especially remarkable because he doesn't work for Bush, he works for Vice President Dick Cheney.
[...] "David has always been one of those quietly influential staffers that has an impact all of out proportion to their public profile," said Bradford Berenson, who spent two years as a lawyer in the Bush White House. "He knows how to get things done, and when he talks, people listen because they know he has the authority of the vice president behind him."
Addington's advocacy of far-reaching presidential power underlies several of Bush's most controversial acts, including his decision to authorize a domestic surveillance program without approval from Congress or the courts.
It also provided the foundation for the treatment of detainees captured in the war on terrorism. Addington helped draft the strategy for keeping suspected terrorists outside the reach of American courts by sending them to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some of the harshest criticism of Addington stems from his role in a fierce debate within the administration over interrogation techniques. A 2002 Justice Department memo - now known as the "torture memo" - said interrogators should have wide latitude in their efforts to pry information from terrorist suspects.
The memo offered a narrow definition of torture that left open the possible use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics. It also concluded that Bush could authorize such tactics without interference from Congress.
Addington didn't write the memo, but he became its chief advocate in battles with officials from the departments of Justice, Defense and other agencies that challenged the abusive tactics. Although the memo was rewritten two years later, Addington continued to push for flexibility in dealing with terror suspects - most recently in White House negotiations over successful efforts by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to ban cruel, inhuman and degrading tactics.
Addington also has led administration efforts to withhold information from Congress, starting in 2001 with the fight over internal documents from Cheney's energy task force. His view prevailed in court.
I emphasized the name "Bradford Berenson" because he's another Devil's Advocate (asst. WH counsel from 2001-2003). You might remember Brad "I look this way 'cause I'm dead inside" from "The Torture Question" Frontline documentary. If you haven't seen it, please check it out (the whole thing is available online). Of course, if you want to see the capo di capi, you have to check out former WH lawyer John Yoo in Gillian Findlay's A Few Bad Apples.

The U.S. News & World Report scoop about warrantless physical searches should appear online tonight. It will physically hit newstands on Monday.

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