REVIEW & OPINION: The torture presidency

The man behind the torture

Perhaps the most powerful lawyer in the Bush administration is also the most reclusive. David Addington, who was Vice President Dick Cheney’s counsel from 2001 to 2005, and since then his chief of staff, does not talk to the press. His voice, however, has been enormously influential behind closed doors, where, with Cheney’s backing, he has helped shape the administration’s strategy in the war on terror, and in particular its aggressively expansive conception of executive power. Sometimes called “Cheney’s Cheney,” Addington has twenty years of experience in national security matters—he has been a lawyer for the CIA, the secretary of defense, and two congressional committees concerned with intelligence and foreign affairs. He is a prodigious worker, and by all accounts a brilliant inside political player. Richard Shiffrin, deputy general counsel for intelligence at the Defense Department until 2003, called him “an unopposable force.” Yet most of the American public has never heard him speak.

Addington’s combination of public silence and private power makes him an apt symbol for the Bush administration’s general approach to national security. Many of the administration’s most controversial policies have been adopted in secret, under Addington’s direction, often without much input from other parts of the executive branch, much less other branches of government, and without public accountability. Among the measures we know about are disappearances of detainees into secret CIA prisons, the use of torture to gather evidence, rendition of suspects to countries known for torture, and warrantless wiretapping of Americans. [complete article]

The missing IG report on Maher Arar

Of all the Bush Administration’s many perversions of the justice system, there is something particularly distressing about the case of Maher Arar. A Canadian software engineer, he was changing planes in JFK on his way home to Canada after a Mediterranean vacation when American law enforcement snatched him up. Arar had been fingered as a terrorism suspect by Canadian authorities. Within a brief period of time, he was interrogated, locked-up and then bundled off to Jordan with directions for transshipment to Syria, a nation known to use torture. Indeed, it was plain from the outset that he was shipped to Syria for purposes of being tortured, with a list of questions to be put to him passed along. Never mind that Syria is constantly reviled as a brutal dictatorship by some Bush Administration figures who openly dream of bombing or invading it… the Syrians, it seems, have a redeeming feature—their willingness to torture the occasional Canadian engineer as a gesture of friendship to the Americans. [complete article]

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