From Detainees to Surveillance: Is one allowed to demur to Matthew Waxman's nomination at NSA

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By Benjamin G Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

According to the below article a certain Matthew Waxman is being bruited for the General Counsel job at the NSA.

His Columbia Law School bio is more circumspect about his prior government service then the one at the Hoover Institute. Over there it is stated that:

“He also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs (2004–5), director for contingency planning and international justice at the National Security Council (2002–3), and special assistant to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (2001–2).”

Per John Rizzo’s Company Man book, the Senate Torture Report, and what we know of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, he was present at the creation of the torture regime and its implementation in that key period.

His name has never come up in my reading the past ten years on torture the way William Taft IV as Legal Adviser at State or Alberto Mora as General Counsel of the Navy came up as having expressed strenuous career ending opposition to the abandonment of the Geneva Conventions in that critical juncture.

I have heard him mentioned informally as one more “fighting on the inside” type (here is an interview from 2010 he did In my experience so far that turn of phrase has turned out to be a self-serving gloss on professors, other former government lawyers, or psychologists about their experience in the putting in place of the torture regime.

Now, he is being bruited for the NSA General Counsel job. As a person who has worked as an ordinary citizen on accountability for torture and surveillance state issues, I question the wisdom of his appointment.

Yes, I understand that the Bush torture regime service will inoculate him from Republican objections and a Democratic President tapping him would inoculate him from Democratic objections, but I submit that Washington “House of Cards” standards are not the only ones to be applied.

I have seen no publicly available evidence he fought the torture.

If I can not be sure a person fought torture by my government – surely a very elemental ban of international law – I find it hard to imagine their willingness to fight for respect of my privacy.

That lack on torture suggests to me that he will bend to the governmental executive winds and not keep my interest in mind as an ordinary citizen.

This kind of effort at “communist era like” rehabilitation of people at the center of the torture regime needs to be called out.

So I respectfully do it. People should oppose his selection.