Politics

David Addington and Ignoring the Constitution

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Well, now we have an idea of how this “whatever I do is right” attitude of the administration is coming from.

From the New Yorker:

On December 18th, Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State, joined other prominent Washington figures at FedEx Field, the Redskins’ stadium, in a skybox belonging to the team’s owner. During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law. This requirement, which was instituted by Congress in 1978, after the Watergate scandal, was designed to protect civil liberties and curb abuses of executive power, such as Nixon’s secret monitoring of political opponents and the F.B.I.’s eavesdropping on Martin Luther King, Jr. Nixon had claimed that as President he had the “inherent authority� to spy on people his Administration deemed enemies, such as the anti-Vietnam War activist Daniel Ellsberg. Both Nixon and the institution of the Presidency had paid a high price for this assumption. But, according to the Times, since 2002 the legal checks that Congress constructed to insure that no President would repeat Nixon’s actions had been secretly ignored.

According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was terse. “It’s Addington,� he said. “He doesn’t care about the Constitution.� Powell was referring to David S. Addington, Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff and his longtime principal legal adviser. Powell’s office says that he does not recall making the statement. But his former top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, confirms that he and Powell shared this opinion of Addington.

So what did Addington do? Well, it seems he, along with Alberto Gonzales, was a co-architect of the administration’s legal strategy regarding the President’s seemingly unassailable authority. And it carried the chilling name of “New Paradigm.”

…this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars shareâ€â€?namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on national-security issues said that the Administration’s legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, “all Addington.â€Â? Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was “an unopposable force.â€Â?

And just in case you’re wondering, yes, David Addington is the new Chief of Staff who replaced Scooter Libby. So who is this guy?

From Wikipedia:

Addington was assistant general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1981 to 1984. From 1984 to 1987 he was counsel for the House committees on intelligence and international relations. Addington was also a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for one year in 1987, before becoming Reagan’s deputy assistant. He was Republican counsel on the Iran-contra committee in the 1980’s. From 1989 to 1992, Addington served as special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, before becoming the Department of Defense’s general counsel in 1992.

From 1993 to 2001, he worked in private practice, for law firms Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and Holland & Knight, and the American Trucking Association. He headed a political action committee, the Alliance for American Leadership, set up in large part to explore a possible presidential candidacy for Mr. Cheney.

Also, Addington has a history of taking very contrarian views on controversial subjects…and he’s found a loyal compatriot in Dick Cheney:

They met on Capitol Hill in the mid-eighties, when Cheney was a Republican congressman from Wyoming and Addington was a young staff lawyer working for the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees. So they have worked together for about two decades. Their partnership was cemented when they worked together on the Minority Report on the Iran-Contra affair. Both Addington and Cheney took the idiosyncratic position that it was Congress, not President Reagan, that was in the wrong. This view reflected the opinion, held by both men, that the executive branch should run foreign policy, to a great extent unimpeded by Congress. It’s a recurring theme�pushing the limits of executive power and sidestepping Congress�in their partnership.

I’ll put it bluntly, this guy scares me. He seems extremely zealous, almost to the point of being blind to any other strategies, and that’s when people are the most dangerous to both their country and the principles it was founded upon.

Anybody else know anything about Addington?