Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Kook By Any Other Name

Vice-President Cheney has named his longtime counsel David Addington to the position of his Chief of Staff, replacing the temporarily indisposed Lewis Libby. Addington is known for, among other things, enabling by his interpretations of law the extraordinary secrecy the executive branch has demanded during the Bush administration. Addington decided that Congress would not receive the information the GAO demanded about Cheney's secret energy task force. Since 9-11, Addington has fought against officials who have insisted that the U.S. adhere to its obligations vis-a-vis enemy prisoners of war as an original signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention.

Addington is at it again, according to today's New York Times, he has been attempting to cajole the Defense Department into ignoring the Geneva Convention in a new departmental policy on the treatment of detainees.

"The document under discussion, known as Department of Defense Directive 23.10, would provide broad guidance from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; while it would not spell out specific detention and interrogation techniques, officials said, those procedures would have to conform to its standards. It would not cover the treatment of detainees held by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The behind-the-scenes debate over the Pentagon directive comes more than three years after President Bush decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the fight against terrorism. It mirrors a public battle between the Bush administration and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is pressing a separate legislative effort to ban the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of any detainee in United States custody.

After a 90-to-9 vote in the Senate last month in favor of Mr. McCain's amendment to a $445 billion defense spending bill, the White House moved to exempt clandestine C.I.A. activities from the provision. A House-Senate conference committee is expected to consider the issue this week.

Mr. Cheney and some of his aides have spearheaded the administration's opposition to Senator McCain's amendment; they were also quick to oppose a draft of the detention directive, which began to circulate in the Pentagon in mid-September, officials said.

A central player in the fight over the directive is David S. Addington, who was the vice president's counsel until he was named on Monday to succeed I. Lewis Libby Jr. as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff. According to several officials, Mr. Addington verbally assailed a Pentagon aide who was called to brief him and Mr. Libby on the draft, objecting to its use of language drawn from Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

"He left bruised and bloody," one Defense Department official said of the Pentagon aide, Matthew C. Waxman, Mr. Rumsfeld's chief adviser on detainee issues. "He tried to champion Article 3, and Addington just ate him for lunch.""

(End excerpt)

Before 9-11, if any official had been quoted as criticizing, much less aggressively pushing a policy contrary to the Geneva Convention, he or she would have been branded a dangerous kook and cast out of the Washington establishment.


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