Dawn Johnsen, and Big Changes at the Office of Legal Counsel

Also at Daily Kos and OpenLeft

Dawn Johnsen, whom Obama is appointing to head up the Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo's old haunt, is author of an issue brief: "All the President's Lawyers:  How to Avoid Another "Torture Opinion" Debacle" and an article on guidelines for the President's legal advisors.

Dawn Johnsen: The Role of the OLC and DOJ (At The American Constitution Society)

She spoke at an October 2007 event on principles to guide the Department of Justice. Below are excerpts from that panel discussion.

Dawn Johnsen discusses the role of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Big Changes at the Office of Legal Counsel
by NLinStPaul at DocuDharma.com, Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 18:03:21 PST
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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.

Think maybe she'd join us in signing the petition for a Special Prosecutor?

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Other Obama appointees to the Justice Department include:

_ David Ogden, a top Justice Department official during the Clinton administration, as deputy attorney general, the No. 2 figure under Attorney General-designate Eric Holder.

_ Elena Kagan, the dean of the Harvard University Law School and a former Clinton White House aide, as solicitor general.

_ Tom Perrelli, counsel to Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno from 1997 to 1999, as the associate attorney general who oversees civil matters.

Docudharma Tag:petition for a special prosecutor

Closely related story:The Man: Attorney General-Designate Eric Holder Jr.

Tags: American Constitution Society, Barack Obama, Dawn Johnsen, DOJ, John Yoo, Office of Legal Counsel, torture (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

A No-Torture Memo would be a good thing.

Prosecution of torturers would be an even better thing, yes?

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by Edger 2009-01-06 09:20AM | 0 recs
Yes...

They broke the law & they need to be held accountable.

by atdleft 2009-01-06 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Dawn Johnsen, and Big Changes

i am loving this pick.  such an unapologetic criticizer of the bush admin

by campaignmonitor 2009-01-06 09:31AM | 0 recs
It looks like a good pick.

And she sounds like an intelligent honest lawyer.

We'll find out soon enough whether it's a good pick, or someone to help sweep things under the rug.

If she doesn't live up to her own words and counsel Obama to, and if Obama and Holder don't, appoint a special prosecutor and prosecute bush administration crimes, all the words and the "good picks" will be as nothing.

Just another sternly worded letter writer full of high sounding empty words? Or really a "rule of law" pick?

by Edger 2009-01-06 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: It looks like a good pick.

WE'll know soon enough whether it's a good pick or someone to help sweep things under the rug.

If I were a betting man, I's bet that you're more than rady to rake Ms. Johnsen over the coals for the latter, regardless of her actions in office.

by spirowasright 2009-01-06 05:40PM | 0 recs
If I were a betting man,

based on the totality of your comments here, I'd say you are avoiding the issues presented in this diary, are willing to let war criminals off the hook, and support the rule of law but only selectively and when it is in your interest.

by Edger 2009-01-06 09:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Dawn Johnsen

This is really such an outstanding appointment.

by Steve M 2009-01-06 09:36AM | 0 recs
Yes...

An executive branch that actually enforces the law instead of breaks it? Who'd have thought?

by atdleft 2009-01-06 01:42PM | 0 recs
Enforcing the law includes

prosecutions. So far none of Obama, Holder nor Johnsen have committed to doing that.

by Edger 2009-01-06 02:21PM | 0 recs
I agree

But that's not really the OLC's purview.  An Independent Prosecutor is probably the best way to go.  Biden was making some un-encouraging noises about "looking forward" on This Week right before Christmas.

by JJE 2009-01-06 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree

Hence the petition.

by Edger 2009-01-06 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Dawn Johnsen
She's a wonderful choice. Dead-on about issues of torture, wiretapping and all other Orwellian characteristics of BushCo. I also think she's cute...is that sexist of me?
by Spiffarino 2009-01-06 07:23PM | 0 recs
Probably,

to all 5.

by Edger 2009-01-06 09:37PM | 0 recs
Obama finding balance

Good job, Mr president to be. I like this appointment.

by Pravin 2009-01-06 10:14AM | 0 recs

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