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?

  • Mashall Applewhite

    To be perfectly honest, he scares me too, as I have read bits and pieces about him. To my knowledge, there weren’t any pictures of him until recently. Nobody knew what he looked like.

    The common personality trait between many people within this White House seems to be the same: the infallibility of the leader, indifference to law and order, totally hell-bent on the agenda based on ideology. It’s almost like a fanatical political religion.

    When Bush was elected in 2000 I figured we would get someone who governed with consensus like he supposedly did while Governor in Texas. Someone who, like his father, was more of a moderate Republican, which was willing to work with others and be more of a pragmatist. But I never expected them to act like this. Never in a million years would I have suspected them to be such fanatical ideologues with nothing but control and power on the mind. They are not Republicans in the least sense. They are not weary of power, they crave it even as they accumulate more of it. They are authoritarians down to the bone and sadly have more in common with Mussolini than John Locke at least in terms of ‘protecting’ the citizens.

  • ES

    You had mentioned Mssrs. Gonzales and Addington as the architects of the administration of the ‘new paradigm’, but you had forgotten to list Mr. John Yoo.

    In yesterday’s Op-Ed section of USA Today (link below), he again takes a swing for the ‘new paradigm’ against Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Yoo was not forthright in his Op-Ed to why he has a dog in this fight.


    Thanks to various websites, Andrew Sullivan linking to TCS Daily (Bainbridge article), and it has a link leading to a FindLaw article about ‘Unitary Executive’ paradigm in the administration. I think this is the same as what you label as ‘New Paradigm’. Ms. Van Bergen’s article can be found at the following location –


  • Mike P.

    Addington is one, however, it seems most of the liberal blogs have also pointed to the so called “Yoo Memo” ( http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/warpowers925.htm ) as the “source” of the Administration’s claims to unbridled authority.

  • http://www.kozoru.com Justin Gardner

    Good catch everybody. I had missed that. Thanks for the links.

  • david78209

    I hope the International Criminal Court in The Hague has a file on David Addington. He had a good bit to do with the legal opinions that said the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Gharib. I’m not holding my breath waiting for his trial as a war criminal, though I think he deserves it, but seriously hope he “enjoys” the same type of retirement as Henry Kissinger and Augustin Pinochet, if not that of Slobodan Milosivec. Kissinger can’t travel to France and much of Europe because he’s wanted for questioning regarding things like the assassination of a Chilean diplomat in Washington DC. Pinochet, of course, has to pretend to be too sick or senile to be tried even in his native Chile.

  • DosPeros

    Allende deserved what he got & Pinochet is a hero in my book. But my family has been fighting communist in Latin America for a very long time. As for the French and Kissinger, who cares? Other than Christopher Hitchens. John, do you realize the Addington would take an indictment from the Hague as a badge of honor.

  • http://www.kozoru.com Justin Gardner

    By the way, I highly recommend the PBS Frontline documentary, ‘The Dark Side.’ A good look into the pre-war policy of the Bush administration and how it led to where we are today.

  • Lewis

    More paranoia about the evil Bush Empire and how they’re all going to enslave us and make Bush Emperor for life. Is the anti Bush crowd afraid to sleep with the lights off too? Could be a bogie man in the closet.

    Honestly, do you think it’s even remotely likely that this will happen or that Bush even wants to be emperor? Do you really deep down inside believe that Bush isn’t a proud and patriotic American (just like y’all)regardless of the fact that you don’t agree with his policies?

    My God, people need to grow up and get real.

  • ES

    This whole thing with the Hamdan case, “new paradigm”, and the various writers of the paradigm, my mind would come back to this story in the New Yorker (27 FEB 2006).


  • Meredith

    Geez Lewis,

    This is separation of powers were talking about here – The whole freakin’ point of setting up the Constitution. I guess you would rather wait until it’s completely painfully obvious that the Executive branch has assumed more power than the other two branches. By the way, none of this has anything to do with being a proud, patriotic American. No, Bush is not going to be an emperor, but he has exhibited a philosophy (along with most of his administration) that he believes the executive branch of government should have more power than the other two branches when in a time of war. Of course, the “war on terror” will most likely be more like the “hundred years war,” and so the logical conclusion is . . . eventually we will all just accept that the executive has to be more powerful because it’s for our own good.

    Under our Constitution, this is just not allowed. Period. People like you will enable administrations like this to slowly encroach on our rights and amend the Constitution until our form of government has morphed into who knows what.

    And yes, Lewis, you’re damn right I wear my foil hat everyday and check all my phones for bugs. Oh, and I had all my metal fillings replaced with porcelain.

  • C. Sampson

    Addington’s compatriot Yoo writes on presidential powers in NYT editorial: