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Truthdigger of the Week: Jack Goldsmith

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Posted on Sep 8, 2007
Goldsmith
law.harvard.edu

Truthdig tips its hat this week to Jack Goldsmith, who speaks out about his experiences during his nine-month tenure as head of the Office of Legal Counsel during a crucial phase of the Bush presidency in 2003-4 in his troubling and illuminating new book, “The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration.”  Although Goldsmith, a conservative who still agrees with some of the Bush administration’s policies concerning Iraq and the war on terror, couldn’t singlehandedly stop the president and his close allies in the White House in their determination to “go it alone, in secret” and to dangerously expand their executive powers beyond healthy (and soundly legal) proportions, Goldsmith was able to contest some of their most controversial counterterrorism policies—including the notorious “torture memos”—before he resigned. 

In fact, he used the circumstances surrounding his 2004 resignation as a means of checking the administration’s impetus to “push the law as far as it would allow.”  Clearly, several key members of the current government could benefit from the kind of attuned self-awareness (and, when warranted, self-criticism) Goldsmith exercised with regard to his role and the consequences of his decisions on the nation and on its allies and antagonists alike:


My actions in June 2004 contributed to a problem that has bedeviled the intelligence community since the 1960s.  The executive branch and Congress pressure the community to engage in controversial action at the edges of the law, and then fail to protect it from incriminations when things go awry.  This leads the community to retrench and become risk averse, which invites complaints by politicians that the community is fecklessly timid. ... These cycles of timidity and aggression are the bane of the intelligence community, and are a terrible problem for our national security.  They flow from the confluence of three related Washington pathologies:  the criminalization of warfare, the blame game, and the cover-your-ass syndrome.  Everyone agrees that risks must be taken to confront the terrorist threats.  But no one wants to be blamed when the inevitable errors occur.  Everyone wants cover.  The President wants plausible deniability, or blames bad intelligence.  Congressional intelligence committees demand to be informed, but not in a way that will prevent them from being critical when things go badly.  Intelligence agencies want explicit instructions from the White House and Congress, which are rarely forthcoming.  The agencies thus increasingly demand cover from their lawyers.  Their lawyers, in turn, increasingly seek cover from OLC.  And, as my actions demonstrate, OLC opinions are not always reliable.

Read more about Goldsmith and his time as assistant attorney general at the Office of Legal Counsel here.

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By Marjorie L. Swanson, September 11, 2007 at 4:16 am Link to this comment

Better late than never Mr. Goldsmith! But one positive aspect is that the rats on the raft paddling furiously away from the ship seem to grow in number daily. Soon their will be more members of this Disastrous Administration on the raft than on the ship. Can a ship still function with just Geedubya, Barney, Pickles and Joe Lieberman?

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By Dale Headley, September 10, 2007 at 10:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is the umpteenth book from an administration insider to reveal the true dysfunction, incompetence, and utter callousness of Bush and his enablers.  Trouble is, like the others, who will read it?  Only the choir.

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By Jerry Vest, September 10, 2007 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think Goldman could have been a real hero had he come forward right away and prevented the Justice Dept. from digging in and ‘sand bagging’ and forgetting everything as time passed.

He is not the first deceitful “R” that waited for an opportune time to open up and be responsible. There is usually a financial deal behind most of these later disclosures.

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By felicity, September 9, 2007 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

(I keep getting this recurring image of Bush throwing himself on the floor, flailing his arms, kicking his feet, screaming bloody murder and threatening to hold his breath if he doesn’t get his own way. Like a three-year-old.  Are we surprised?)

Has the Bush Administration ever explained its aversion to going through FISA to get a warrant? Has it ever justified it?

Has anyone ever explained why the Bush Administration tortures detainees to get information when professionals in the business of information-gathering continue to say torture elicits bad information and/or none at all?

After reading the article on Goldsmith, it’s clearer why no one ever asks substantive questions like those - at least within the Exec Branch.  But Congress?

If I remember correctly, it was people from inside the Nixon WH who eventually brought him down.  We need more Goldsmiths - especially since Congress is catatonic when it comes to oversight - to bring the brat down.

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By loneoak, September 9, 2007 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suppose he deserves our respect for speaking out, but his vision of presidential powers is still extreme.  I hesitate making him into the hero of the moment.  His disagreements with the administration were not so much over the need for extreme measures in curtailing civil liberties and using torture for interrogations, but rather with the style in which they did it.  He seems to support most of what the Bush cabal did, just not that they did it without Congress’ consent.  Rather than “pushing at the edges of law” when they committed their crimes, he seems to want those acts decriminalized first.

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By PACRAT, September 9, 2007 at 7:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Magnification and Deification” of Presidential War Powers

Goldman’s comments about being virtually alone in trying to keep law and order in the thought process at the White House are revealing. It was uphill all the way over and over again until he threw in the towel. Should he have stayed and sacrificed his life? I guess that only history will evaluate that.

Goldman’s recent interview by Bill Moyers was very informative, especially his description of the climate of paranoia and panic in the White House anticipating another attack by terrorists at any moment (especially since it ignored the warning signs of the 9/11 disaster and abandoned America to “fate” rather than take preventive action). Working in such a climate renders everyone immobile, anxious, paranoid and “mistake prone” -  the perfect climate for imperialistic people to “take over.”

Fear makes it possible to flaunt laws and the Constitution under the guise of protecting America, and it permits the magnification of presidential powers that extend beyond “normal” presidential powers. That’s why the president felt he could act alone as the “decider,” the “decision maker,” and “the commander in chief.” The Constitution should have prevented the making of a king in pseudo or real wartime situations!

Also interesting was the verification of the deliberate avoidance of Congressional and Judicial review to save time and to avoid any setbacks. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the White House policy.

Aren’t fear and power-grabbing the conditions that facilitate tyranny?

Goldman seems to have been among the few dissenters in the White House hell-bent on grabbing as much “power” as possible and being “almost legal.”

Congress did not react responsibly because the republican leadership at the time rolled over and played dead. Journalists didn’t do their jobs either, because they mistakenly thought that everyone was afraid of everything - privacy rights, first amendment rights, and the Constitution can be set aside. They fell for it - and misled America!

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By PACRAT, September 9, 2007 at 6:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Magnification and Deificiation” of Presidential War Time Powers

Goldman’s comments about being virtually alone in trying to keep law and order in the thought process at the White House are revealing. It was uphill all the way over and over until he threw in the towel. Should he have stayed and sacrificed his life? I guess that only history will evaluate that.

Goldman’s recent interview by Bill Moyers was very informative, especially his description of the climate of paranoia in the White House anticipating another attack by terrorists at any moment, (especially since it ignored the warning signs of the 9/11 disaster and abandoned America to “fate” rather than take preventive action). Working in such a climate renders everyone “mistake prone,” immobile, anxious, paranoid: the perfect climate for imperialistic people to “take over.” 

Fear makes it possible to flaunt laws and the Constitution under the guise of protecting America, and it permits the magnification of presidential powers that extend beyond “normal” presidential powers. That’s why the president felt he could act alone as the “decider,” the “decision maker,” and “the commander in chief.” The Constitution should have prevented the making of a king in pseudo or real wartime situations!

Also interesting was the verification of the deliberate avoidance of Congressional and Judicial review to save time and to avoid any setbacks. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the White House policy.

Aren’t these the conditions that facilitate tyranny?

Goldman seems to have been among the few dissenters in the White House hell-bent on grabbing as much “power” as possible and being “almost legal.”

Congress did not react responsibly because the republican leadership at the time rolled over and played dead. Journalists didn’t do their jobs either, because they mistakenly thought that everyone was afraid of everything - privacy rights, first amendment rights, and the Constitution can be set aside. They fell for it - and misled America!

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By QuyTran, September 8, 2007 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

Sorry, it was too late !

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By 911truthdotorg, September 8, 2007 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment

bush’s “Endgame”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkgGOFXuYPw


Google videos: 9/11 Press for Truth, Loose Change 2nd Edition, Terror Storm, America: Freedom to Fascism

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