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!
Few Washington developments in recent weeks establish the parameters of “change you can believe in” better than this: following the resignation of Phil Carter, the White House is reportedly prepared to tap William Lietzau as the new deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. Lietzau served as an aide to William J. Haynes II, the David Addington protégé who was Donald Rumsfeld’s lawyer at the Pentagon. In this role, he played a central role in creating a harsh new environment for prisoners taken in the war on terror, including the crafting of rules for a military commission that were subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court.
Spencer Ackerman’s in-depth examination of the Lietzau appointment in the Washington Independent today focuses on the critical assessments of the Army’s and Navy’s Judge Advocates General during the time of his Pentagon service:
Two senior military lawyers who fought with Haynes over military commissions and interrogations in the Bush administration said they were surprised to hear of Lietzau’s impending appointment to the Obama Pentagon. Retired Rear Adm. Don Guter, who served as the Navy’s Judge Advocate General from 2000 to 2002, described Lietzau as a close Haynes confidante but not an outspokenly opinionated figure. “If he disagreed with Jim Haynes you’d never know about it,” Guter said. “Because of his close association with Haynes I’d be more comfortable if I saw something public [indicating] he’d made a break with those policies.”
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig also described Lietzau as closely tied to Haynes, whose role in instituting extreme interrogations at Guantanamo Bay against the wishes of military lawyers cost him Senate confirmation for a federal judgeship. Romig, the Army’s Judge Advocate General during Bush’s first term, said that although he did not know specifically what positions Lietzau took on detainee interrogations or if Haynes even consulted him on the issue, “at that time, he was certainly in the bosom of the administration that was running interrogation programs that at the very least were quite troubling, and in many minds were a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions.” Lietzau’s expertise in international law — he was part of the Clinton administration’s delegation to the 1998 Rome conference that wrote the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court — should have allowed him to know “what was right and wrong with [Bush's] interrogation policies,” Romig said.
In fact, if you survey Lietzau’s academic writings in this area, or examine his public appearances, you get the impression that he was completely comfortable with the detentions policy of the Rumsfeld Pentagon, including its darkest recesses. No one questions Lietzau’s smarts or his depth in dealing with detainee affairs. But not a few question his judgment and independence in the work he did for Haynes and Addington.
The key questions hovering over the Pentagon’s detainee operations are complex. But they could be expressed in a shorthand fashion: is the Obama Administration more the captive of the Bush legacy than it needs to be? With Lietzau as the new policy master in this arena, the answer to that question will be obvious.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
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.
Amount three New York men owe in restitution for stealing rock lobsters off the coast of South Africa:
AIDS researchers were working to develop genetically modified tomatoes that naturally produce an edible HIV vaccine.
Trump said that he might not have been elected president “if it wasn’t for Twitter."
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."