The Corner

“Greg Craig and the Terrorist”

I’m scheduled to be on C-Span this morning at 9 discussing, among other things, “Greg Craig and the Terrorist,” my story in the new issue of NR about incoming White House counsel Gregory Craig. For the moment, it’s available to subscribers only, but this is the beginning:

By any standard, the story of Pedro Miguel González is astonishing. The son of a prominent Panamanian politician, González, according to U.S. prosecutors, murdered a United States Army sergeant on a road outside Panama City on June 10, 1992, the day before Pres. George H. W. Bush was to visit the country. With his father’s help, González fled Panama, eventually coming back to be acquitted in a sham trial. Though the Clinton administration labeled him a terrorist, González became an important political figure in Panama, ultimately winning election as president of the national assembly — an event that so angered leaders of both political parties in the United States Senate that they put a hold on the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement while González held that office.

American prosecutors have long wanted to put González behind bars; the nearly 17-year-old murder charge stands today. But in addition to his family in Panama, González has at least one very well-connected, very influential advocate in the United States: Gregory Craig, the man Barack Obama chose to be the next White House counsel. Craig’s representation of an American soldier’s killer drew scant notice during the 2008 campaign, when Craig was a top Obama adviser. It has drawn little attention since Obama named him White House counsel. And it will probably remain relatively unnoticed as the spotlight focuses on the Obama administration’s economic plan, on the Middle East, and on Iraq.

But Craig’s role in the González case, or at least what little is known about it, is worth exploring. Top White House officials like Craig serve solely at the president’s pleasure; they are not subject to the scrutiny of the confirmation process. They have made choices and connections in their careers that tell us something about how they will perform their new duties. For Gregory Craig, that includes the case of Pedro Miguel González.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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