LUTTIG AND BUSH….Last December I wrote about Judge Michael Luttig’s seriously pissed off opinion in the case of Jose Padilla, the “dirty bomber.” Basically, the Bush administration argued for years that it was absolutely essential to the war on terror for Padilla to be locked up as an enemy combatant in a military prison, but then, suddenly and cynically, changed its mind when it looked like there was a chance that Padilla might appeal this decision to the Supreme Court and win.
Today the Wall Street Journal follows up on this, suggesting that Luttig felt personally betrayed by the Bush administration’s transparent politicization of the war on terror in this case, and this led to his resignation yesterday:
[In September] Judge Luttig, according to a person familiar with the court proceedings, put his own credibility on the line, drawing on his own experience in national-security law and confidence in Bush administration officials he knew. He argued to his colleagues that the government wouldn’t have sought such extraordinary powers unless absolutely necessary, this person says.
Then, in November, the administration suddenly announced that it didn’t consider Mr. Padilla an enemy combatant any more and would charge him in a regular federal court….A person familiar with the judge’s thinking says it’s evident [Luttig] felt the government had pulled “the carpet out from under him.”
….Instead of granting what the government considered a pro forma request to transfer Mr. Padilla to civilian custody, Judge Luttig ordered the parties to submit arguments over the question. On Dec. 21, Judge Luttig delivered a judicial bombshell: a carefully worded order refusing to move Mr. Padilla until the Supreme Court decided what to do. The order all but accused the Bush administration of misconduct.
Luttig, a super-conservative judge and a devout believer that the adminstration needed extraordinary powers to fight terrorism, suddenly discovered that he had been suckered. When this administration says something is critical to the war on terror, what it really means is that it’s politically convenient. If something else is politically convenient tomorrow, they’ll flip 180 degrees without batting an eye.
For some reason, Luttig found this unacceptable. And so he’s gone.