SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
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.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Average number of days an oiled seabird survives in the wild after cleaning and release:
Epilepsy drugs can extend the life of worms by 50 percent.
A deaf dog belonging to a deaf owner was shot and killed in Alabama, and an Indiana dog’s skin troubles were found to be caused by an allergy to humans. “It’s just not his fault,” said the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”