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Rummy: It’s Jim Haynes’ Fault

Justin Elliott at TPMM takes a close look at Donald Rumsfeld, scrambling for excuses, for his involvement in trashing the Geneva Convention. As Elliott points out, Rummy’s excuse of "process" is pretty lame.

But I’m also interested in the way Rummy blames Jim Haynes, DOD’s General Counsel. Elliott quotes from Rummy biographer Bradley Graham:   

With the passage of time, Rumsfeld has come to recognize that he made a mistake, although he sees the error as one of process, not basic judgment. He faults himself for taking too legalistic an approach initially, saying it would have been better if senior Pentagon officials responsible for policy and management matters had been brought in earlier to play more of a role and provide a broader perspective. As he explained in an interview in late 2008, policies were developing so fast in the weeks after the September 11 attacks that he did not follow his own normal procedures. "All of a sudden, it was just all happening, and the general counsel’s office in the Pentagon had the lead," he said. "It never registered in my mind in this particular instance–it did in almost every other case–that these issues ought to be in a policy development or management posture. Looking back at it now, I have a feeling that was a mistake. In retrospect, it would have been better to take all of those issues and put them in the hands of policy or management." 

Granted, this is a version of the same argument Jack Goldsmith (who came into DOD’s OGC in spring 2002) makes–things got out of hand because everything was so legalistic.

The excuse is credible given what we know of Rummy’s December 2002 approval of harsh interrogation methods. Jim Haynes’ office served as a gatekeeper, ensuring that none of the services–the policy people–could weigh in on the stupidity of torturing detainees. And then, with almost no review, Rummy signed off on a one page memo authorizing the use of the techniques.

At the same time, I’m most interested in the timing. "In the weeks after the September 11 attacks … the general counsel’s office in the Pentagon had the lead." This puts Haynes in the mix much earlier than–for example–the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on torture does. The SASC Report first records Haynes’ office soliciting JPRA for interrogation techniques in December 2001–early, certainly, but not exactly the "weeks after the September 11 attacks."

In December 2001, more than a month before the President signed his memorandum, the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel’s Office had already solicited information on detainee "exploitation" from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions. 

What I suspect Rummy’s really saying, though, is that the War Council–run by Haynes’ mentor David Addington–was really in charge, and that Addington worked the bureaucracies he knew well (he had worked at both DOD and CIA) to trash the Geneva Convention in a decentralized but effective way.

If I’m right about what this really means, though, then for some reason Rummy still doesn’t want to go there.

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