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Ashcroft Battled White House Over Appointment

POSTED: 12:18 PM ET, 07/17/2008 by Derek Kravitz

An internal fight between former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and the White House over who would lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in early 2003 set off a quick turn of events, ultimately leading to a critical attack on the Bush administration's interrogation methods by its "compromise" pick.

President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., dismissed the five candidates put forward by Ashcroft, all Republican lawyers with impeccable credentials, sources told The Post. Instead, the White House insisted Ashcroft promote John Yoo, a onetime OLC deputy who had worked closely with Gonzales and vice presidential adviser David S. Addington to draft memos supporting detainee questioning techniques, among other things, The Post's Carrie Johnson reports.

The result was a tense standoff, finally resolved by Bush, and the compromise appointment of Jack L. Goldsmith, a Defense Department lawyer then on leave from a teaching post at the University of Chicago Law School.

Later, Goldsmith would pen his highly critical book, "The Terror Presidency," in which he writes that some of the memos written by Yoo and his colleagues from 2001 to 2003 were "deeply flawed: sloppily reasoned, overbroad, and incautious in asserting extraordinary constitutional authorities on behalf of the President." Goldsmith now teaches law at Harvard University.

Ashcroft, who left his post in 2005, is expected to address the whole episode at today's House Judiciary Committee hearing, the fifth in a series of explorations by Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) into the underpinnings of the government's legal strategy for fighting terrorism. (See Ashcroft's opening statement.)

The Post first reported in January 2005 that proposed CIA interrogation techniques were discussed at several White House meetings years before. Yoo was a principal briefer at the meetings, where interrogation methods discussed included open-handed slapping, the threat of live burial and waterboarding. The attendees at one or more of these sessions included Ashcroft and Addington.

By Derek Kravitz |  July 17, 2008; 12:18 PM ET
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Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



We´re finding this out now?

To better understand the Bush mafia´s role in 9/11, look at what they did even earlier.


By the time investigators catch the bad guys, we´ll all be dead.

What would America look like if John Yoo had been appointed? The extreme abuses perpetrated against America´s finest may have trickled down more broadly.

Philippe Sands ( http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/guantanamo200805?printable=true¤tPage=all ) testified before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on The Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Hearing on: From the Department of Justice to Guantanamo Bay: Administration Lawyers and Administration Interrogations Rules, Part IV.

The video at C-Span has no audio. The video at judiciary.house.gov has no video.

The washingtonpost should post an online video library in H.264 format of all House and Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearings, especially those involving torture.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/07/15/complicity/index.html

Posted by: Singing Senator | July 17, 2008 1:20 PM

Doesn't this sound like the Nuremberg trials after WW 11. All the bad guys pleading & begging for mercy. Bush & Company should be held accountable for their actions just like the Nazi's were ..... is there a difference between the two ?

Posted by: SadAmerican | July 17, 2008 5:25 PM

i listened to yoo testify before congress on c-span. everytime he opened his mouth, i was asking myself: "is this guy really a lawyer? what law school did he go to and did they really give this guy a diploma?"

i came to the conclusion he must have gotten a law degree ... on some website... kind of like going through the mcdonald's drive-thru.

i can't believe this guy is even allowed on campus or in a classroom at stanford -- where he teaches? (can u believe that?).

during the hearing, he wouldn't answer even the most basic questions about things he did not related to giving advice to the whitehouse ... claiming attorney-client privilege... but he wasn't even representing the justice department...his former employer... then he tried to claim certain information was classified...but didn't really know if it was or not...

the guy was a total joke as a professional lawyer... you wouldn't even want this guy representing you for a traffic violation... how did he ever get nominated for such an esteemed position? the guy was clearly inept and had very poor reasoning skills for a lawyer.

Posted by: frank | July 17, 2008 5:45 PM

Maybe Bush will give Conyers the Presidential Medal of freedom when he leaves office. He deserves it.

Bush will probably just hand those out to Cheney, Libbey, Rove, Gonsalez, Yoo, Addington and all the others with a cheery "Hey. it's been real guys. Hope ya'll had a good time. We definitely did some damage. Drop by the ranch sometime. We always got cold beer in the fridge."

Posted by: Humpty Dumpty | July 17, 2008 5:49 PM

Everybody talks about the Fascist problem, but no one does anything. Stand up for the Constitution and Bill of Rights or get out of the way!

Posted by: ghostcommander | July 17, 2008 5:51 PM

This is the same guy whose Justice Department would not let Zacarias Moussaoui's computer hard drive be looked at because it would violate his civil rights. That act could have prevented 911 and he's for water boarding because you can get valuable information. How screwed up in that?

Posted by: Old Warrior | July 17, 2008 6:24 PM

Obvious. It's perfectly OK to do whatever you think is OK to do to American Prisoners elsewhere when you decide what to do with Foreigners held by this country and what to do to them for info. In other words, if you want to chop their arms off, that's fine, as long as it is OK with you that American Soldiers captured by others can just as easily be treated equally. Tit for tat. This isn't rocket science.

Posted by: JohnPaul | July 17, 2008 6:41 PM

If this were Serbia, say, and not the USA, wouldn't John Yoo have already been prosecuted for war crimes? It isn't a surprise to hear that he's unskilled in his profession. That is a Bush administration trademark.

Posted by: jchaney | July 18, 2008 11:33 AM

John Yoo teaches at UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) since 1993 with occasional visits to make a fool of himself in DC. He is tenured. Non-tenured professors have no legal rights worth mentioning in a short book, but tenured profs have an expectation of permanency, and therefore property rights in his job. If fired (except for gross immorality or felony)he can successfully sue the State University for violating his 14th amendment life, liberty, or property right.
Firing John Yoo from UCB for a political crime is impossible. Were he convicted of a war crime (a possibility) he could plead 1st, 5th and 14th Amendment rights. Freedom of speech is one of a citizen's "privileges and immunities" Under the circumstances, I would argue his freedom of speech is absolute. When on takes leave to work for the government, he does not put his tenure at risk.If he is convicted by the Democrats, (if you were Korean-American how would you like being tried by a DC jury?) he would take it to the Supremes, who would reverse 5-4.
In other words, forget it. There are many better things to do with OPR time. The students and faculty must keep hands off him. Any harassment permitted by UCB would trigger a successfil many million dollar law suit. John Yoo is a free man in a free country and is free to be as wrong as he wishes. Welcome to academic freedom, America, enjoy it while you can.

Posted by: nihil | July 18, 2008 12:07 PM

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