Newsweek Report on OLC Under Goldsmith:
Newsweek has a must-read article on internal wranglings within the Bush Administration about legal issues surrounding the war on terror, and in particular on the "insurrection" allegedly mounted against a number of controversial policies by short-lived OLC head (and current Harvard Law prof) Jack Goldsmith. From the story:
. . . Goldsmith became a rallying point for Justice Department lawyers who had legal qualms about the administration's stance.
Goldsmith soon served notice of his independence. Shortly after taking over the OLC in October 2003, he took the position that the so-called Fourth Geneva Convention—which bars the use of physical or moral coercion on prisoners held in a militarily occupied country—applied to all Iraqis, even if they were suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda.
. . . [I]n December, Goldsmith informed the Defense Department that Yoo's March 2003 torture memo was "under review" and could no longer be relied upon. It is almost unheard-of for an administration to overturn its own OLC opinions. Addington was beside himself. Later, in frequent face-to-face confrontations, he attacked Goldsmith for changing the rules in the middle of the game and putting brave men at risk, according to three former government officials, who declined to speak on the record given the sensitivity of the subject.
Addington's problems with Goldsmith were just beginning. In the jittery aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration had pushed the top-secret National Security Agency to do a better and more expansive job of electronically eavesdropping on Al Qaeda's global communications. Under existing law—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, adopted in 1978 as a post-Watergate reform—the NSA needed (in the opinion of most legal experts) to get a warrant to eavesdrop on communications coming into or going out of the United States. Reasoning that there was no time to obtain warrants from a secret court set up under FISA (a sometimes cumbersome process), the Bush administration justified going around the law by invoking a post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing use of force against global terror. The eavesdropping program was very closely held, with cryptic briefings for only a few congressional leaders. Once again, Addington and his allies made sure that possible dissenters were cut out of the loop.
There was one catch: the secret program had to be reapproved by the attorney general every 45 days. It was Goldsmith's job to advise the A.G. on the legality of the program. In March 2004, John Ashcroft was in the hospital with a serious pancreatic condition. At Justice, Comey, Ashcroft's No. 2, was acting as attorney general. . . . Goldsmith raised with Comey serious questions about the secret eavesdropping program, according to two sources familiar with the episode. He was joined by a former OLC lawyer, Patrick Philbin, who had become national-security aide to the deputy attorney general. Comey backed them up. The White House was told: no reauthorization.