Friday, June 30, 2006

Roundup on the "New Paradigm" of Executive Power

As noted in my last post, John Yoo's a leading legal intellectual who's articulated a theory of executive autonomy for the prosecution of the war on terror. Yet, he's obviously not the only current or former Bush administration figure advancing this perspective. As Jane Mayer points out in her "Letter from Washington" at the the New Yorker, David Addington, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, is also a vehement proponent of the executive autonomy theory of executive power under the constitution, and Addington's vision is a major contributor to the "new paradigm" for presidential action in the terror war:

The overarching intent of the New Paradigm, which was put in place after the attacks of September 11th, was to allow the Pentagon to bring terrorists to justice as swiftly as possible. Criminal courts and military courts, with their exacting standards of evidence and emphasis on protecting defendants’ rights, were deemed too cumbersome. Instead, the President authorized a system of detention and interrogation that operated outside the international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war established by the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Terror suspects would be tried in a system of military commissions, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, devised by the executive branch. The Administration designated these suspects not as criminals or as prisoners of war but as “illegal enemy combatants,” whose treatment would be ultimately decided by the President. By emphasizing interrogation over due process, the government intended to preëmpt future attacks before they materialized. In November, 2001, Cheney said of the military commissions, “We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”

Yet, almost five years later, this improvised military model, which Addington was instrumental in creating, has achieved very limited results. Not a single terror suspect has been tried before a military commission. Only ten of the more than seven hundred men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo have been formally charged with any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, three detainees committed suicide in the camp. Germany and Denmark, along with the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have called for the prison to be closed, accusing the United States of violating internationally accepted standards for humane treatment and due process. The New Paradigm has also come under serious challenge from the judicial branch. Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled against the Administration’s contention that the Guantánamo prisoners were beyond the reach of the U.S. court system and could not challenge their detention. And this week the Court is expected to deliver a decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case that questions the legality of the military commissions.

The Court has now, of course, ruled against the Guantanamo commissions, and according to this Washington Post article, the holding strikes at the core of the administration's implementation agenda for the "new paradigm":

For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it. Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate. For many in Washington, the decision echoed not simply as a matter of law but as a rebuke of a governing philosophy of a leader who at repeated turns has operated on the principle that it is better to act than to ask permission. This ethos is why many supporters find Bush an inspiring leader, and why many critics in this country and abroad react so viscerally against him. At a political level, the decision carries immediate ramifications. It provides fodder to critics who turned Guantanamo Bay into a metaphor for an administration run amok. Now lawmakers may have to figure out how much due process is enough for suspected terrorists, hardly the sort of issue many would be eager to engage in during the months before an election.

Moreover, the decision vindicated the more limited view of executive authority espoused by military attorneys seeking to reign-in the adminstration, as this Los Angeles Times piece indicates:

For four years, they waged what may have been the loneliest fight in the war on terrorism. Facing Bush administration hard-liners intent on finding novel ways to deal with enemy combatants, the armed services' own lawyers fought attempts to rewrite the rules of war." We argued that this would come back to haunt us and it would taint the military justice system," said retired Rear Adm. Donald Guter, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer when "military commission" trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees were first proposed in 2001. "We were warning that you would have to be careful to provide basic protections." In meeting rooms and internal debates, the military lawyers again and again challenged the Defense Department's civilian leaders, insisting that the fight against terrorism was best waged under the recognized rules: the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice. Until now, administration hawks, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David S. Addington, had won almost every argument. This fight, they said, required more flexible guidelines, with fewer rights for those captured and fewer limits on their captors. But after Thursday's Supreme Court decision, the Pentagon faces the prospect not only of ditching the military commissions, but of rewriting large parts of the rule book it created for fighting the war on terrorism. The court's majority decision held that the war on Al Qaeda and others must be fought under international rules....Judge advocates general, or JAGs, the uniformed lawyers of the Defense Department, first found themselves at odds with the Pentagon's civilian leaders in the weeks after Sept. 11, when some within the administration began arguing that terrorism detainees should not be entitled to the same protections as traditional prisoners of war. Guter, the Navy's chief JAG until June 2002, was one of the first flag officers to argue against the commission plan, saying it was a mistake to ignore the long traditions of military justice when trying terrorism suspects. Senior administration officials told Guter and the other JAGs that the urgency to extract intelligence meant the traditional military justice system could not be used. But there was, Guter detected, more to the administration's maneuvering. "There was another motive," he said. "This was seen as an opportunity, a vehicle to restore presidential power and authority. It was a very convenient vehicle. It was perfect. Fear tends to drive power to authority and to the executive branch."

However, as I suggested in my quick post yesterday, the decision may not be that big a victory for opponents of military tribunals. Via Michelle Malkin, here's what Andrew Cochran, at the Counter-Terrorism Blog, said to that effect:

The decision is actually a huge political gift to President Bush, and the detainees will not be released that easily. The President and GOP leaders will propose a bill to override the decision and keep the terrorists in jail until they are securely transferred to host countries for permanent punishment. The Administration and its allies will release plenty of information on the terrorist acts committed by the detainees for which they were detained (see this great ABC News interview with the Gitmo warden). They will also release information about those terrorist acts committed by Gitmo prisoners after they were released. They will challenge the "judicial interference with national security" and challenge dissenting Congressmen and civil libertarians to either stand with the terrorists or the American people. The Pentagon will continue to release a small number of detainees as circumstances allow. The bill will pass easily and quickly. And if the Supremes invalidate that law, we'll see another legislative response, and another, until they get it right. Just watch.

2 comments:

prying1 said...

This is one GREAT post! Thanks for compiling and sharing this info. - I've been mentally out of the loop on this for various reasons and this post puts the whole thing together. - I love the last paragraph. There may very well be a pot of gold at the end of the translucent rainbow.

Donald Douglas said...

Hi Paul:

Thank you for the compliment and thank you for the visit. I'll be posting more on the Hamdan ruling as additional interesting commentaries appear.

Take it easy.