Obama announced that he has chosen Dawn Johnsen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, the same position once held by the infamous John Yoo.
In filling four senior Justice Department positions Monday, President-elect Barack Obama signaled that he intends to roll back Bush administration counter-terrorism policies authorizing harsh interrogation techniques, warrantless spying and indefinite detentions of terrorism suspects.
The most startling shift was Obama's pick of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen to take charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, the unit that's churned out the legal opinions that provided a foundation for expanding President George W. Bush's national security powers.
Johnsen, who spent five years at the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration and served as its acting chief, has publicly assailed "Bush's corruption of our American ideals.'' Upon the release last spring of a secret Office of Legal Counsel memo that permitted the aggressive interrogations of terrorism suspects, she excoriated the unit's lawyers for advising Bush ``that in fighting the war on terror, he is not bound by the laws Congress has enacted.''
Yep, I'd say Ms. Johnsen is a bit outraged at the whole idea that a Unitary Executive can decide to torture at will. Here's something she wrote last April when the "torture memo's" were released.
Where is the outrage, the public outcry?! The shockingly flawed content of this memo, the deficient processes that led to its issuance, the horrific acts it encouraged, the fact that it was kept secret for years and that the Bush administration continues to withhold other memos like it--all demand our outrage.
Yes, we've seen much of it before. And yes, we are counting down the remaining months. But we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power. Otherwise, our own deep cynicism, about the possibility for a President and presidential lawyers to respect legal constraints, itself will threaten the rule of law--and not just for the remaining nine months of this administration, but for years and administrations to come.