No Comment — October 19, 2008, 3:38 pm

Justice in the Gutter

Saturday the New York Times alerts us to a new opinion issued deep in the bowels of the Bush Justice Department. The decision emanates from the Office of Legal Counsel, an outfit stuffed to the gills with partisan hacks whose other criminal mischief includes a series of decisions issued to induce government operatives to engage in torture and other acts of official cruelty. The same hacks blessed the felonious surveillance of the communications of American citizens on terms which Attorney General Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Comey, neither a lion of civil liberties, considered untenable. According to the man who attempted in vain to clean up the office for Ashcroft, some of the opinions he was asked to render were designed–like the works of mafia consigliere–to provide a “golden shield” to protect policy makers at high ranks in the Administration from the near certain prospect of criminal prosecution. So dark are the works of this office that the Bush White House fervently wants to avoid them seeing the light of day.

When sunlight touches these writings, they tend to turn to dust. Exposed to the sanitizing criticism of the public, of Congress, and of the legal profession, they are revealed for works of glaring hackery. No proposition is too preposterous that it cannot be advanced in an OLC memorandum these days. They are now taught in law schools around the country as models of substandard, unprofessional and incompetent legal work.

But this week, the OLC coughed up another furball. This opinion is designed to grease the tracks for payoffs to the Karl Rove’s Christianist buddies, who were essential to the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and who hit paydirt almost immediately when team Bush moved into the White House. Still, the Christianists have faced some irritating restrictions in their prolific consumption of taxpayer dollars. One is the requirement that a federally funded entity not discriminate in hiring on the basis of confession. OLC has now opined that this presents no problem. In concept there is no reason why faith-based organizations should not be eligible to receive taxpayer money for the performance of services that serve a public need. But if they elect to take this money, they cannot be allowed to discriminate in hiring to exclude persons of other faiths. That is a fundamental principle.

The OLC opinion is obviously false as a proposition of law—it squarely contradicts a series of Supreme Court holdings. But the more troubling aspect of the opinion is that it reeks of corruption. It is designed to clear hurdles that stand in the way of the Administration’s voracious funneling of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of its loyal political retainers on politically skewed criteria. The scandal in the Office of Juvenile Justice, which I explored here and which was subsequently the subject of an exposé on ABC’s Nightline, shows just the sort of mischief which this OLC memorandum is calculated to enable.

It will be interesting to see after January 20, 2009, what other little presents remain hidden for us in the file drawers of the Office of Legal Counsel. One thing is clear, however. OLC will require a fully staffed special prosecutor working overtime for years just to craft a good catalogue.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

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

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today