Embattled Pentagon Legal Chief to Step Down The top lawyer at the Pentagon is leaving his job. William J. Haynes was also nominated by President Bush to be a federal appeals judge, but his appointment was never confirmed by the Senate. Opponents, including a group of retired military officers, said his policies led to the abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
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Embattled Pentagon Legal Chief to Step Down

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Embattled Pentagon Legal Chief to Step Down

Embattled Pentagon Legal Chief to Step Down

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

One of the architects of the Bush Administration's detention and interrogation policies is stepping down from his job at the Pentagon. He is William Haynes, the Defense Department's general counsel. Haynes helped shape legal opinions that became the subject of furious debate and kept him from the federal judgeship.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO: Shortly after September 11th, five powerful men in the federal government sat down to write the rules for what would become the War on Terror. Pentagon general counsel, William Haynes, was part of that team. So is his long time mentor and friend, David Addington from Vice President Cheney's office. Alberto Gonzales and Tim Flanigan were the president's legal team while John Yoo represented the Justice Department. The group met at the White House or in Haynes' Pentagon office. The so-called war council established the prison in Guantanamo Bay and wrote the rules for harsh interrogations. And the decisions that Haynes made on that panel have dogged him for the last seven years.

Mr. JOHN HUTSON (President and Dean, Franklin Pierce Law Center): This may be the best he could've gone. It just failed in lots of important ways.

SHAPIRO: Franklin Pierce Law School president, John Hutson, used to be the Navy's top lawyer. Two years ago, he and 20 other retired military leaders signed a letter urging Congress not to confirm Haynes to a federal judgeship on the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court. It was a symptom of the animosity that had developed between Haynes and military lawyers generally. Hutson says, there were just too many examples of Haynes delivering legal advice that turned out to be wrong.

Mr. HUTSON: The Geneva Conventions don't apply, and it turns out that they do. Guantanamo Bay was going to be a law-free zone, so that detainees were beyond the reach of U.S. law, and it turns out that that's not the case. You know, the military commissions have clearly been flawed, the failure to give clear direction regarding detention and interrogation policies. At some level, Mr. Haynes is responsible.

Mr. DAVID RIVKIN (Lawyer, Baker & Hostetler LLP; Former U.S. Department of Justice Official): Nobody could've predicted exactly where the court would come out on some of those issues.

SHAPIRO: Attorney David Rivkin worked for the Reagan and first Bush Administrations.

Mr. RIVKIN: Those are enormously difficult issues but, I think, the answers that he has come up with are solely rooted in a traditional, international law, and the people just don't like answers instead of honestly admitting that there's a difference in policy. There's a tendency to demonize one's opponent.

SHAPIRO: During his judicial confirmation hearing, Haynes said he was not solely responsible for the so-called torture memos.

Mr. WILLIAM HAYNES (Former U.S. Department of Defense Chief Counsel): I wasn't the decision maker. I was trying to be very clear about my role as the lawyer -what is the law.

SHAPIRO: And he rejected the notion that his interrogation rules led to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

Mr. HAYNES: With the photographs in Abu Ghraib showed was not interrogation. It was not authorized. It was not the result of any policy. It was not at all sanctioned by anyone. And I deplore it.

SHAPIRO: When 14 moderate senators cut a deal to confirm some of President Bush's judicial nominees, Haynes was left out. The White House eventually withdrew his name and Haynes went back to the Pentagon. He held the general counsel job longer than anyone in the Defense Department's history. Now, he'll take a job in the private sector. His deputy, Daniel Dell'Orto, will become acting general counsel. Dell'Orto has been a long-time career lawyer in the department. Today, military attorneys were optimistic. They hope Dell'Orto can rebuild trust between military lawyers and the Pentagon General Counsel's Office.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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