SO I’M READING JACK GOLDSMITH’S NEW BOOK, The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration, and so far it’s quite good. Excerpt:
It is unimaginable that Francis Biddle or Robert Jackson would have written Franklin Roosevelt a memorandum about how to avoid prosecution for his wartime decisions designed to maintain flexibility against a new and deadly foe. . . . Many people think the Bush administration has been indifferent to wartime legal constraints. But the opposite is true: the administration has been strangled by law, and since September 11, 2001 this war has been lawyered to death.
As I’ve said before, this war has been overlawyered, which is not to say it has been well-lawyered. Goldsmith notes that the Defense Department alone has over 10,000 lawyers, not including reservists. More:
In my two years in the government, I witnessed top officials and bureaucrats in the White House and throughout the administration openly worrying that investigators acting with the benefit of hindsight in a different political environment would impose criminal penalties on heat-of-battle judgment calls. These men and women did not believe they were breaking the law, and indeed they took extraordinary steps to ensure that they didn’t. But they worried nonetheless because they would be judged in an atmosphere different from when they acted, because the criminal investigative process is mysterious and scary, because lawyers’ fees can cause devastating financial losses, and because an investigation can produce reputation-ruining dishonor and possibly end one’s career, even if you emerge “innocent.”
There’s a lot more.