From the DoD, via TPMMuckraker:
" The Department of Defense announced today that General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II is returning to private life next month."
Pardon me while I dance about my study, cackling with glee. That's some of the best news I've had since, well, since the announcement of the ceasefire in Northern Uganda. (Hard to top that.)
Haynes might have gotten in trouble because of this little gem from last week, based on an interview with Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for Guantanamo's military commissions:
"When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes--the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department.
"[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.
"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions.'"
Davis submitted his resignation on October 4, 2007, just hours after he was informed that Haynes had been put above him in the commissions' chain of command. "Everyone has opinions," Davis says. "But when he was put above me, his opinions became orders.""
This, for the record, is one of the people Bush tried -- twice! -- to appoint to the federal court of appeals, where he would have gotten to rule on the fairness and legality of all sorts of cases. Delightful thought, isn't it? However, there is so much more to Haynes' dreadfulness than his insistence that all the Guantanamo trials end in conviction. For instance:
Haynes led the working group that wrote one of the most appalling torture memos (pdf). This memo argues that the President "enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his Commander-in-Chief authority", and that "In light of the President's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the President's ultimate authority in these areas." Also: "Any attempt by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the Commander-in-Chief authority in the President." (p. 23) Or, in other words: when we're at war, the President does not have to obey the law.
This memo asserts that we live in a dictatorship. As long as the President is exercising his authority as commander-in-chief (which extends not just over the battlefield, but all the way to Guantanamo), he can do whatever he wants. If he decides he needs to strangle someone in the exercise of that authority, he is not liable for murder. If he decides to lock citizens up without charges or trial, he can do that too. If you think we live in a nation of laws, not men, this memo says you are wrong.
Michael Froomkin wrote:
"The Constitution does not make the President a King. This memo does. (...) This memo is labeled “draft”. Even so, if the second half is like the first, then everyone who wrote or signed it strikes me as morally unfit to serve the United States. If anyone in the higher levels of government acted in reliance on this advice, those persons should be impeached. If they authorized torture, it may be that they have committed, and should be tried for, war crimes."
And just because I don't want one much smaller idiocy to disappear into the memory hole, I have to bring up Haynes' brief in Center for Biological Diversity v. Pirie,
whose text seems to have vanished from the web. [UPDATE: No, it's here (pdf). I love our commenters. END UPDATE] However, I quoted from it in a post I wrote a few years ago, when it was still available:
"In this amazing brief, Haynes argued that bombing a nesting site for migratory birds would benefit birdwatchers, since "bird watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one." Moreover, he added, the birds would benefit as well, since using their nests as a bombing range would minimize "human intrusion". The judge's comment on this novel line of argument: "there is absolutely no support in the law for the view that environmentalists should get enjoyment out of the destruction of natural resources because that destruction makes the remaining resources more scarce and therefore more valuable. The Court hopes that the federal government will refrain from making or adopting such frivolous arguments in the future." (pp. 27-8)"
Yep: bombing birds' nesting grounds is good for the birds, and for birdwatchers too! Who knew?
May William Haynes enjoy a pleasant retirement as far away from the law as it is possible to be. He has already done more than enough damage to it for several lifetimes.