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Conscience of a Conservative

The NY Times has, today, a piece "Coscience of a Conservative" which will appear in its magazine next Sunday. It makes for interesting reading - and revives the topic of torture of prisoners by the US, Gitmo and the whole scenario of the White House's "involvement" in the totally illegal practices eventually struck down by the US Supreme Court.

"In the fall of 2003, Jack L. Goldsmith was widely considered one of the brightest stars in the conservative legal firmament. A 40-year-old law professor at the University of Chicago, Goldsmith had established himself, with his friend and fellow law professor John Yoo, as a leading proponent of the view that international standards of human rights should not apply in cases before U.S. courts. In recognition of their prominence, Goldsmith and Yoo had been anointed the “New Sovereigntists” by the journal Foreign Affairs.

Goldsmith had been hired the year before as a legal adviser to the general counsel of the Defense Department, William J. Haynes II. While at the Pentagon, Goldsmith wrote a memo for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warning that prosecutors from the International Criminal Court might indict American officials for their actions in the war on terror. Goldsmith described this threat as “the judicialization of international politics.” No one was surprised when he was hired in October 2003 to head the Office of Legal Counsel, the division of the Justice Department that advises the president on the limits of executive power. Immediately, the job put him at the center of critical debates within the Bush administration about its continuing response to 9/11 — debates about coercive interrogation, secret surveillance and the detention and trial of enemy combatants.

Nine months later, in June 2004, Goldsmith resigned. Although he refused to discuss his resignation at the time, he had led a small group of administration lawyers in a behind-the-scenes revolt against what he considered the constitutional excesses of the legal policies embraced by his White House superiors in the war on terror. During his first weeks on the job, Goldsmith had discovered that the Office of Legal Counsel had written two legal opinions — both drafted by Goldsmith’s friend Yoo, who served as a deputy in the office — about the authority of the executive branch to conduct coercive interrogations. Goldsmith considered these opinions, now known as the “torture memos,” to be tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed, and he fought to change them. He also found himself challenging the White House on a variety of other issues, ranging from surveillance to the trial of suspected terrorists. His efforts succeeded in bringing the Bush administration somewhat closer to what Goldsmith considered the rule of law — although at considerable cost to Goldsmith himself. By the end of his tenure, he was worn out. “I was disgusted with the whole process and fed up and exhausted,” he told me recently."

Read the complete revelatory article here.

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