No Comment — June 7, 2007, 9:59 am

The Federalist Society, the U.S. Attorneys Scandal, and Mary Walker

The Federalist Society bills itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.” It sponsors debates and public information functions at law schools around the country. I have participated in Federalist Society functions for more than a decade myself, and I always enjoy them. But there is another, darker side of the Federalist Society which doesn’t show up on its website, but it making increasing appearances on documents turnover in the current probe of the U.S. Attorneys scandal. It serves as a means by which “loyal Bushies” identify themselves to one another, prove their absolute ideological loyalty, and it operates as an express elevator to high government office. Recall, for instance, that in the list of qualifications that Kyle Sampson prepared, one column was headed “Federalist Society?”

Now evidence has surfaced suggesting that the Federalist Society was deeply enmeshed in the plot to purge the Justice Department of those who were unwilling to fulfill Karl Rove’s political plans, and in identifying new candidates who would. McClatchy reports:

A leader of an influential conservative legal group recommended a replacement candidate for the U.S. attorney in San Diego just days after the sitting prosecutor’s name was secretly placed on a Justice Department firing list, according to a document released Wednesday. The recommendation by the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leonard Leo, came before anyone outside of a tight group in the White House and Justice Department knew about a nascent strategy that ultimately led to the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

It could not be determined whether a short e-mail, sent on March 7, 2005, making the recommendation meant that Leo knew of the plan to fire Carol Lam or whether his message was unsolicited and coincidental. The subject line of Leo’s e-mail to Mary Beth Buchanan, then-director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, says, “USA San Diego,” indicating the top prosecutor job for the Southern District of California. Lam was on the job at the time and had no plans to step down.

What is most revealing here is both that Leo knew that Lam was being fired before she did, and that he was busy identifying replacements. And the candidate he suggested is telling:

The text of the note reads, “You guys need a good candidate?” Leo goes on to say he would “strongly recommend” the Air Force’s general counsel, Mary Walker. Walker led a Pentagon working group in 2003, which critics said helped provide the administration with a rationale to circumvent the international Geneva Conventions banning torture in the interrogations of terrorism suspects.

Mary Walker, who is close to a number of Religious Right groups, was a principal architect of legal efforts to justify torture and other war crimes. She also played a suspicious role, apparently attempting to suppress an independent investigation of misconduct by religious evangelical groups at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Walker is also widely believed to be involved in efforts to harass and intimidate Air Force JAGs she considered to be politically disloyal. She appears to have launched a vendetta against the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General, who had, together with his deputy, opposed her torture initiatives. She has been one of the most widely disliked figures in the Rumsfeld Pentagon.

On its website, the Federalist Society claims that it was “founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom [and] that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution.” It would apparently be incorrect to suppose that the “separation of powers” they have in mind here would in any way limit political control over the prosecutorial functions.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2016

American Idle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

My Holy Land Vacation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The City That Bleeds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

El Bloqueo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Vladivostok Station

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Ideology of Isolation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
"We all know in France that as soon as a politician starts saying that some problem will be solved at the European level, that means no one is going to do anything."
Photograph (detail) by Stefan Boness
Post
Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.

The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.

Artwork: Camels, Jerusalem (detail) copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
[Report]
How to Make Your Own AR-15·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Even if federal gun-control advocates got everything they wanted, they couldn’t prevent America’s most popular rifle from being made, sold, and used. Understanding why this is true requires an examination of how the firearm is made.
Illustration by Jeremy Traum
Article
My Holy Land Vacation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"I wanted to more fully understand why conservative politics had become synonymous with no-questions-asked support of Israel."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Article
The City That Bleeds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing."
Photograph (detail) © Wil Sands/Fractures Collective

Percentage of British citizens who say that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom:

27

In the United Kingdom, a penis-shaped Kentish strawberry was not made by snails.

The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today