Thursday, July 06, 2006

Addington Meets Aristizabal - Part 1

If David Addington had grown up in Hector Aristizabal’s shoes…with apologies to Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, and all the people quoted in her original article...

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 publicly decommissioned the National Security Agency, stating that its very existence violated the longstanding American tradition of respect for human rights and individual liberty, by eavesdropping 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, Bush had noted that the legal checks that Congress had constructed to insure that no President would repeat Nixon’s actions were inadequate, and, in light of his leadership in the global movement toward absolute government transparency and an unwavering commitment to nonviolent conflict resolution, the NSA and FISA had both become irrelevant.

According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was effusive. “It’s Addington,” he said. “He cares passionately 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.

Most Americans, even those who don’t follow politics closely, have probably heard of Addington. Current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration’s legal strategy for the Peace Through Justice campaign. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that many legal scholars, and even more ordinary citizens, share—namely, that the President, as Peacemaker-in-Chief, has the obligation to regard virtually all legal boundaries designed to regulate civilians in society, as equally binding on his own behavior, because worldwide, human security demands it.

Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance are enforced especially rigorously. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on human-security issues said that the Administration’s legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, “all Addington.” Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was “an unopposable force.”

The overarching intent of the New Paradigm, which was put in place after the attacks of September 11th, was to allow the U.S. Department of Peace to dry up the sources of terrorist recruitment, through a two-pronged approach: leadership by example in the U.S. (through reductions in gross income disparity, clear public condemnation of all forms of bigotry, and a concerted effort to provide a decent basic living standard for all) coupled with firm international diplomatic and funding efforts to achieve the same goals abroad, in cooperation with foreign governments. Criminal courts and military courts, with their confrontational structure and winner-take-all approach, were deemed too cumbersome. Instead, the President authorized a system of humanitarian intervention and person-to-person cooperation that set new international standards for the treatment of human beings established by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Terror suspects would be held briefly in a comfortable, climate-controlled detention center in downtown Washington D.C., charged or released within 10 days of arrest, and if held, permitted free access to both competent legal representation and their families. The Administration designated these suspects not as criminals or as prisoners of war but as “human beings entitled to the same dignity and respect as the President of the United States,” whose treatment would be equivalent to the treatment afforded the President.

By emphasizing due process over detention, interrogation and torture, the government intended to set a profound example of the moral superiority of democracy, open governance and a commitment to human rights, to preëmpt future attacks before they materialized. In November, 2001, Cheney said of the procedures, “We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe we all deserve.”

Almost five years later, this improvised non-military model, which Addington was instrumental in creating, has achieved far-reaching results. Nearly 15 despotic governments from Egypt to North Korea have responded to international pressure by opening their own governments to greater public scrutiny. Ten terror suspects have been tried, convicted and imprisoned in clean, well-run prisons, while more than 700 innocent men accidentally arrested were promptly released to return to their native countries speaking highly of the fair, unbiased, open American justice system. No detainees have filed suit against the United States for mistreatment, and none have committed suicide.

Germany and Denmark, along with the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have called for the U.S. model to be adopted around the world, praising the United States for raising internationally accepted standards for humane treatment and due process. The New Paradigm has also received strong praise from the judicial branch. Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Administration’s contention that all prisoners, regardless of where they are captured or arrested, fall under the reach of the U.S. court system and can claim all the rights afforded American citizens. And this week the Court is expected to deliver a decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case that attempts to extend the civil rights of American citizens under the U.S. Constitution to cover even law-abiding citizens of other countries...


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