It’s beginning to look as if the... Obama administration may be purging those officials who don’t understand that human rights take last place, after placating the intelligence community and looking strong so Liz Cheney doesn’t mock them.This is a reasonable conclusion drawn from today's breaking news that Phillip Carter, Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy, suddenly resigned his post last Friday. Carter was known as sympathetic to human rights causes, and in his writings at Slate's "Convictions" and the Washington Post's "Intel Dump" had been quite critical of the Bush Administration's torture/detention program, and its legal underpinnings. (See his "Genesis of Torture" piece from June 18, 2008.)
Now, Carter follows the resignation of Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig, another administration official involved in detainee policy, and closely associated with the policy of closing Guanatanamo. It sure looks like a purge is taking place, and out of it Gates and the CIA will come out looking stronger. Or, is this a price paid for the bill due for allowing KSM and four others to be tried in civilian courts? Steep price, then. Most see the Craig resignation as a scapegoating for the failed Guantanamo policy.
It appears the battle over Guantanamo has been waged, and the human rights community and the prisoners lost. By all accounts, Guantanamo isn't going to be closed anytime soon. Obama is saying sometime next year (no deadlines anymore). Andy Worthington has blogged on what a disaster the failure to close Guantanamo amounts to, especially for the prisoners there, many of whom have been cleared for release, but have nowhere to go.
For what it's worth, here's a bit from today's Washington Post article on Carter's resignation:
Phillip Carter, who was appointed deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy in April, said in a brief telephone interview that he was leaving for "personal and family reasons" and not because of any policy differences with the administration....Update: (Wednesday, 12:30pm, PST) Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) reports in her own posting on the Carter resignation that Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald has some excellent reporting on the story. Rosenberg's story strongly hints that Carter's resignation is related to Obama's determination, or so it appears, to continue the indefinite detention of some Guantanamo prisoners. Carter's last task? He was sent to check out a possible Guantanamo replacement penal facility in Thomson, Illinois.
Carter, a lawyer and Iraq veteran, was responsible for coordinating global policy on detainees.
Since taking office, he has helped craft new policies that will allow hundreds of prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan to challenge their indefinite detention under a new review system. Carter was also involved in the administration's effort to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, which holds 215 detainees.
His departure comes at a critical moment for the administration, as it attempts to find a location in the United States to stage military tribunals and place some detainees in indefinite detention.
It appears more and more likely Carter couldn't stand his squeezed lemon role, caught between the right-wing "pragmatists" and pro-war crowd at the White House, and his former NGO constituency. See the Post article, where Carter's best attempts to get ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations to be more cooperative with what Obama was doing at Guantanamo were spurned. Carter appears to have done the right thing and resigned, unable to maintain his integrity in the Obama administration. What kind of fate does that hold for Dawn Johnsen, said to soon be considered at last for confirmation as head of Obama's Office of Legal Counsel?
Glenn Greenwald has a post up on Carter, too, looking in more depth at Carter's progressive, pre-Obama administration background.