David Addington vs. the World

DAVID ADDINGTON vs. THE WORLD….Jack Goldsmith, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel for a few tumultuous months in 2003-04, has written a book about his clashes with the White House — and specifically with Dick Cheney’s attack dog, David Addington — over torture, enemy combatants, and domestic spying. It’s due out later this month, but today in the New York Times Jeffrey Rosen gives us a preview:

[Goldsmith] shared the White House’s concern that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might prevent wiretaps on international calls involving terrorists. But Goldsmith deplored the way the White House tried to fix the problem, which was highly contemptuous of Congress and the courts. “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court,” Goldsmith recalls Addington telling him in February 2004.

In his book, Goldsmith claims that Addington and other top officials treated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the same way they handled other laws they objected to: “They blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis for the operations,” he writes. Goldsmith first experienced this extraordinary concealment, or “strict compartmentalization,” in late 2003 when, he recalls, Addington angrily denied a request by the N.S.A.’s inspector general to see a copy of the Office of Legal Counsel’s legal analysis supporting the secret surveillance program. “Before I arrived in O.L.C., not even N.S.A. lawyers were allowed to see the Justice Department’s legal analysis of what N.S.A. was doing,” Goldsmith writes.

….The heroes of Goldsmith’s book — his historical models of presidential leadership in wartime — are Presidents Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both of them, as Arthur Schlesinger noted in his essay “War and the Constitution,” “were lawyers who, while duly respecting their profession, regarded law as secondary to political leadership.”….The Bush administration’s legalistic “go-it-alone approach,” Goldsmith suggests, is the antithesis of Lincoln and Roosevelt’s willingness to collaborate with Congress. Bush, he argues, ignored the truism that presidential power is the power to persuade. “The Bush administration has operated on an entirely different concept of power that relies on minimal deliberation, unilateral action and legalistic defense,” Goldsmith concludes in his book. “This approach largely eschews politics: the need to explain, to justify, to convince, to get people on board, to compromise.”

Read the whole thing for more, and be sure to keep in mind while you’re reading that Goldsmith is no centrist. He’s a hardcore conservative, he’s unmpressed with civil libertarian arguments, he was thrilled to work with the Bush administration, he was a close friend of John Yoo, and he’s convinced that we need to be on a war footing in the fight against terror. But even at that, he was appalled at what he saw during his tenure in the Justice Department.

It’s worth ten or fifteen minutes of your time to read Rosen’s piece. But if you just want the highlights, head over to TalkLeft. Jeralyn has ’em for you.