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The New Justice Department

A very positive series of appointments. The New York Times reports:

President-elect Barack Obama reached back to the Clinton administration again Monday to fill four top Justice Department posts with lawyers whose records signal a sharp break from the legal policies of the last eight years.

Mr. Obama said he would nominate David W. Ogden, a Washington lawyer in private practice, as deputy attorney general; Elena Kagan, dean of the Harvard Law School, as solicitor general; Thomas J. Perrelli, a Washington lawyer, as associate attorney general; and Dawn E. Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor, as head of the Office of Legal Counsel. All four held senior legal posts in the Clinton administration.

From the perspective of national security law, the appointment of Johnsen is especially significant.  The Times notes:

Ms. Johnsen, who would provide legal interpretations to the entire Obama administration, did not try to hide her disdain for recent counterterrorism initiatives in a law review article last year titled: “What’s a President to Do: Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration’s Abuses.” She criticized the “unnecessary unilateralism of the Bush years” in programs like the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants and the administration’s approval of simulated drowning, or waterboarding, in the questioning of suspected Al Qaeda operatives.

Johnsen has much to do….

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.