Bradbury nomination is torturous

By A. James Memmott

January 26, 2008 at 10:07am

In the film, Groundhog Day, the TV weatherman played by Bill Murray wakes up to the same day again and again.

In a Washington version of the film, the White House keeps nominating Steven G. Bradbury to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. It’s a job he has done for more than two years on an interim basis.

Bradbury was first nominated in 2005. However, his opinions on interrogation techniques caused concern among Senate Democrats and the nomination and subsequent renominations stalled.

In confidential memos, Bradbury had seemed to give the go-head to what The New York Times described as “harsh interrogation techniques.” They included head slapping and simulated drowning, the paper wrote.

On Wednesday, President Bush again nominated Bradbury to be assistant attorney general for legal counsel. Once again, Democrats were concerned.

“The president has thumbed his nose at Congress and chosen an individual who has been involved in authorizing some of the most controversial policies of this administration,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., as reported in the Times.

The Justice Department had a different read on Bradbury.

“Steve Bradbury is dedicated public servant and a superb lawyer who has led (the office) with distinction,” said spokesman Peter A. Carr.

A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Bradbury clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the 1992-1993 term.

He was a partner in the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated President Clinton, was also at Kirkland & Ellis.

Likewise, Robert H. Bork, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals and an unsuccessful nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, was at the firm.

Bradbury is also a former member of the Federalist Society, a group for conservative and libertarian lawyers.

The Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the Justice Department on issues of legality, has been without a confirmed leader since 2004 when Jack Goldsmith resigned after serving nine months.

During that time, Goldsmith found some earlier department rulings on torture to be wrongly argued.

After Goldsmith, Daniel Levin served as acting head of the office. However, he was asked to resign after he submitted himself to waterboarding and found that technique to be torture.

Bradbury succeeded Levin as acting head of the office in 2005.

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