Cheney’s Disdain For The Law Is Appalling

When Attorney General Eric Holder last month announced he was naming a special prosecutor to determine if CIA personnel had violated federal laws against torturing prisoners during the prior administration of George W. Bush, former Vice President Cheney went ballistic.  Even though Holder made clear the reach of the special prosecutor’s jurisdiction would extend only to those who had exceeded even the broad legal “justification” for torture provided by lawyers in the Bush Justice Department, Cheney found Holder’s move outrageous.

Obviously, Cheney believes that so long as violations of federal law were committed by persons in a previous administration, the perpetrators should be forever thereafter immune from being held accountable for their offenses.  To even suggest otherwise apparently strikes the former vice president as a purely “political move,” for which “there’s no other rationale,” according to Cheney.

Evidently, Cheney has never read of, or has long forgotten the fact that — as noted for, example, by our nation’s very first vice president, John Adams – ours is a ”government of laws, and not of men.”  To our immediate past vice president, such sentiments represent nothing more than “partisan politics.”  Thankfully, our current attorney general agrees with Mr. Adams.

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Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

September 11th, 2009
1:39 am

Whenever I see a photo of Mr. Cheney with Mr. Nixon, I appreciate anew the Wisdom of the old saw, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Deborah Fetkovich

September 11th, 2009
9:27 am

Richard, Your assertion that Mr. Yoo was pressured in his legal opinions is belied by none other than John Yoo himself in his book, “The Powers of War and Peace:The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11″ by John Yoo, University of Chicago Press.

To further my point, here are excerpts from Andrew McCarthy’s article explaining why he declined Eric Holder’s invitation to meet with a “detention policy taskforce”. It was written before Mr. Obama reversed himself (yet again) and decided to indeed go after low-level CIA operatives and not Mr. Tenet who actually ordered enhanced interrogations.

“I did something today that I’ve never done before. The Department of Justice, which I proudly served for a quarter century as an assistant U.S. attorney and a deputy U.S. marshal, asked me for help, and I declined. Actually, what I declined to do was attend a meeting. My hope is that the dissent I am registering — to the administration’s disastrous policies of releasing trained terrorists and threatening prosecution against government lawyers — will help the department and the Obama administration, even if they don’t want to hear it.

I’ve declined the invitation. It pained me to do it. I’ve always believed enforcing our laws and defending our nation are duties of citizenship, not ideology. My conservative political views aside, I regularly make myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, if they think tapping my national-security or law-enforcement experience would be beneficial.

This time, though, I had to say no. As I explain to Attorney General Holder in a letter, which was posted this morning on the website of the National Review Institute, I declined for two reasons.

First, President Obama and Attorney General Holder have created an untenable situation for lawyers asked to advise the government on policy matters.

Former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo (now a law professor at Berkeley) and Jay Bybee (now a federal appeals-court judge in California), as well as other government attorneys, were asked during the emergency conditions that followed the 9/11 attacks to advise Bush administration policymakers on U.S. interrogation law. They did that in good faith and, despite the fact that it’s now de rigueur to castigate them, quite reasonably (as I’ve argued in an online Federalist Society debate, see here). For their service to our country, they are now being tormented by the Obama administration with both a criminal investigation and an ethics inquiry by Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility. (There have even been calls on the left for Judge Bybee’s impeachment, which — even if he had done something wrong years earlier as a Justice Department lawyer — would be absurd: The Constitution reserves judicial impeachment for misconduct committed during the judge’s tenure on the bench, and Bybee is an excellent judge.)

A little over a week ago, the Obama administration recklessly revealed publicly (i.e., to al-Qaeda) the details of enhanced interrogation tactics used by the CIA against top-tier terrorists. The decision to employ these tactics was not made by Yoo, Bybee, or other government lawyers. They did not look to press these practices on government agents. Rather, the CIA initiated the controversy by asking for clarification of its authority. President Bush and his top national-security officials, including CIA Director George Tenet, were responsible for making the policy. The attorneys merely gave their best legal advice — the policymakers didn’t have to follow it, and it was the CIA, not the lawyers, that conducted questioning and made judgments about how it was affecting the terrorists.

Yet President Obama’s antiwar base is in a froth — so much so that he has unleashed his Justice Department to criminalize political disputes after claiming for weeks that he did not want to do this. And the president is being a bully about it. He obviously doesn’t want to incur the wrath of leaking spooks, so he has said CIA agents won’t be investigated (the right result reached for self-interested reasons). He hasn’t worked up the nerve to go after his predecessor, who ordered the policy, and Tenet — a Democrat and one of Bush’s Clinton-holdovers — is another politically inconvenient target. That leaves the lawyers — relatively unknown and thus easily demonized — as the feast for the piranhas.

Any experienced prosecutor would know there is no criminal case here. And let’s assume you think the lawyers gave bad advice — as many say they do, particularly if they haven’t read the memos. Bad legal advice given in good faith is not an ethical violation. There’s not a lawyer in America who hasn’t given bad legal advice at some point — certainly not in the government. It is disgraceful to target these lawyers for this kind of persecution, to force them to retain counsel to defend their wartime service to the country, and to put them in fear of criminal, professional, and financial repercussions. It should be offensive to all people of good will, regardless of their politics or of where they come out on the explosive issue of coercive interrogation. We can arrive at a sound policy, or not, without demonizing our adversaries as crooks and cads.”

Mr. McCarthy has a great deal more to say about the current administration and its dangerous policies and craven motivations. Those interested in some “straight talk” can read his article here:


September 11th, 2009
3:50 pm

Well spoken Mr Barr. They need to put cheney in jail where liars and thieves belong.

Disposable Identity

September 12th, 2009
2:03 am

@Deborah Fetkovich, Yoo and Bybee may not have comitted a crime by providing bad legal advice but it was bad advice none the less. The orders from the Bush Whitehouse and the subsequent execution of those orders by the CIA were illegal regardless of the advice they recieved. DOJ lawyers don’t actually rewrite law with their legal opinions. The lawyers may just be wrong, but the clients are still guilty.

Disposable Identity

September 12th, 2009
2:52 am

On further reflection I think I’m quite wrong in my previous posting. Under international law I believe we actually have a legal obligation to prosecute the lawyers as well, even if the advice was given “in good faith”. That’s not actually a defence in torture cases. The fact that they “just” facilitated the torture, and didn’t order or participate in it is no defence. We successfully prosecuted German lawyers for essentially the same thing, and the domestic and international laws created in the years since have strengthened the obligation and clarified the definitions substantially.

Deborah Fetkovich

September 12th, 2009
9:40 am

What’s with the “Disposable Identity”. Does that mean you’re ashamed of your ideas and principles and therefore can only express them anonymously?

As far as international law goes, it’s only relevant where the US is a party to those laws through the treaty mechanism. For example, it’s often broadly stated that the US has violated “The Geneva Conventions”. US citizens and law accept only a portion of the Geneva Conventions. We explcitly rejected the two protocols of 1977 — those that unreasonably extended the existing protection of civilian populations during wartime and another which addresses armed conflicts within a nation.

We also don’t recognize the International Criminal Court (ICC), which we believe infringes on our sovereign rights to be self-governing.

As far your assertion that we prosecuted German lawyers “for essentially the same thing”, I assume you’re referring to the 1947 Nuremburg trials of Judges, some of which later were found to be erroneous, such as the Schlegelberger conviction. The judge was released in 1951.

American Richard Posner, one of the most respected and admired legal commentators made this comparison in a New Republic article “Perhaps in the fullness of time the growing of marijuana plants, the “manipulation” of financial markets, the bribery of foreign government officials, the facilitating of the suicide by the terminally ill, and the violation of arcane regulations governing the financing of political campaigns will come to be no more appropriate objects of criminal punishment than “dishonoring the race.” Perhaps not; but [the story of the German judges] can in any event help us to see that judges should not be eager enlisters in popular movements of the day, or allow themselves to become so immersed in a professional culture that they are oblivious to the human consequences of their decisions.”

Jan Sciranko

September 13th, 2009
3:40 pm

Bravo, Mr. Barr! You are right on with your comments about Mr. Cheney. It is a shame so many right-wingers cannot accept criticism of any type, even when it is well deserved. Keep it up; your willingness to be bipartisan is refreshing.


September 25th, 2009
12:20 am

I believe it is important to reacquaint ourselves with what exactly the laws purpose is. If you believe it is justice then there are some statistics that you should know, 1 out of 5 people will spend time in Jail or Prison. 1 out of 100 are innocent of the crimes they have been convicted of. There are 475 million people in the US right now, can you do the math. The history of civilization shows us that laws are and always have been a control mechanism over the masses. Belief that there is a fair and just system of checks and balances is nothing more than a belief. Every administration has used their control over the law for its own agenda, sometimes for good sometimes not so much it has never been about justice and how could it be. There was a study release in 2006 about individuals in law enforcement and compromising behaviors or conditions, such as gambling debts, pornography, drug and substance abuse, financial problems, emotional instability, etc. Who was part of this study? FBI, CIA, Local PD’s, State police, Sheriff departments, State and Federal judges, politicians and the department of Justice. Over 51 percent of these individuals had compromising behaviors and 40 percent admitted to abuse of power because of such. You may ask, how did they find all this out. Well there is this little know fact that once you’re in the system you get protected by the system but you must do one thing. You must admit to your action before you get caught. Ironically, it our tax dollars that pay for all the counseling to make these individuals better.

Keith Bernard

January 12th, 2010
11:46 am

Thank you for your honest comments, unfiltered by political bias. We need more of that.