Liberating Libby | Bush’s European Vacation | Faith-Based Legal Counsel

Pardon Me?—The 30-month sentence of former vice-presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice and perjury presents Dick Cheney with a dilemma. As assistant chief of staff in Gerald Ford’s administration, Cheney opposed Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon. Cheney, who served in the House after Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, believed Ford should have waited. “I thought the pardon should have been delayed until after the 1974 [Congressional] election because I think it did cost us seats,” Cheney said after leaving the House.

Republican prospects of picking up House seats in 2008 are dim. An unpopular pardon by an unpopular president will make prospects worse. If Libby’s attorneys can’t delay the date their client is required to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons, Bush will have to issue a pardon while his approval numbers are at 30 percent. Or Libby will serve at least 15 months of his sentence before the 2008 election.

Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein says that Cheney was an institutionalist when he served in the House. Now Cheney is faced with supporting a pardon to save a friend who apparently took the fall for him, even if that pardon means a larger Democratic House majority.

Eurotrashed—Blowback from his “War on Terror” followed George W. Bush across Europe as he attended the G8 Summit. And it wasn’t coming from the protesters at the conference site. A Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report on U.S. extraordinary rendition and torture at secret “black site” prisons in Europe, scheduled to be released in late June, was leaked to the Washington Post while Bush was at the conference in Helingendamm, Germany.

The Post broke the story of secret CIA prisons in 2005, but at the request of the government, it withheld the locations. The Council of Europe report locates prisons in Poland and Romania. Once the report was leaked, Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty began speaking to reporters. Marty’s reporting was based in part on interviews with CIA agents haunted by the secret rendition and torture policy.

Marty, a Swiss senator and former prosecutor, put together the report over 19 months, and it will be available on-line from the Council of Europe and the websites of other human rights groups. The 70-page report is harshly critical of U.S. policy and the European collaboration that made it possible:

 

Some individuals were kept in secret detention centres for periods of several years, where they were subjected to degrading treatment and so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (essentially a euphemism for a kind of torture), in the name of gathering information, however unsound, which the United States claims has protected our common security. Elsewhere, others have been transferred thousands of miles into prisons whose locations they may never know, interrogated ceaselessly, physically and psychologically abused, before being released because they were plainly not the people being sought. After the suffering they went through, they were released without a word of apology or any compensation. . . . These are the terrible consequences of what in some quarters is called the “war on terror.”

When Bush arrived in Rome after the conference, 26 CIA agents were going on trial (in absentia) for the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Milan. The cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan, was taken to Cairo, where, he says, he was tortured. On the final day of the G8 summit, Bush retired to his hotel. White House aides said he was “feeling queasy.”

Onward, Christian Lawyers—The testimony of former Deputy Attorney General Monica Goodling focused attention on the hundreds of Christian-law-school graduates who work for the federal government. But when the White House added nine new lawyers to its house counsel staff, none of their CV’s resembled that of Ms. Goodling, who earned an undergraduate degree from Messiah College in Pennsylvania and a J.D. from the Rev. Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

The closest match to Goodling’s profile belonged to Texan Emmet Flood, who attended the Catholic University of Dallas but moved on to Yale Law. Vitas of the other eight new staff lawyers list undergraduate degrees from West Point, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Fairfield University and NYU and J.D.’s from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Connecticut, Georgetown, Harvard and Columbia. Faced with 18 months of Congressional subpoenas, and possible criminal prosecution for (thus far) destruction of e-mails, which are by law government property, the White House is gathering a defense team that reflects the secular American meritocracy rather than the faith-based legal counsel exemplified by Goodling.