Sen. Lindsey Graham has written a “Dear Friends” letter in which he explains his reservations about the nomination of Jim Haynes to the Fourth Circuit. He states that these reservations are based on the opposition of “very distinguished military leaders” to the Haynes nomination. These leaders turn out to be Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson and Retired Rear Admiral Donald Guter. As I have noted, Hutson is a partisan Democrat who served as Navy JAG under Clinton and retired before Haynes became General Counsel of the Defense Department. Guter, Hutson’s successor and crony, worked with Haynes for only a short period of time. His opposition apparently is based on the incoherent prediction that, as a judge, Haynes would be unable to resist orders from his superiors.
Graham also cites Retired Brigadier General Edward Rodriguez of the United States Air Force Reserves. But, as I understand it, Rodriguez left active duty in 1974, stayed with the reserves until 1999, and never worked with Haynes. Why Graham relies on partisans with little or no first hand knowledge, while ignoring the pro-Haynes views of, say, Major General (ret.) Michael Marchand who served with Haynes until mid-2005, is unclear.
Graham also refers darkly to “memos written by military legal officers to the civilian leaders in the Department of Defense regarding detainees.” He notes that military lawyers “express[ed] grave concerns about confusing and legally flawed interrogation policies” and the potential adverse consequences to the service men who would carry them out.
As I understand it, Graham is talking here about memos that the JAGs wrote about proposed interrogation methods when they participated in the interrogation working group in 2003. The JAGs in fact did express concerns, but the concerns were addressed in the final set of interrogation methods. This final document achieved general consensus (even Haynes critic Alberto Mora apparently was on board), although the document did not conform entirely to the wishes of the JAGs.
Thus, contrary to the claim that Haynes was unwilling to listen to the military, the JAGs were heard out, and their concerns were addressed. As Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, the Army’s top lawyer, testified before a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Graham (as reported in the Washington Post), the criticism “was accepted in some cases, maybe not in all cases. It did modify the proposed list of policies and procedures.”
Finally, Graham’s letter fails to address the most important questions that arise from his course of conduct — what has his role been in preventing the Haynes nomination from coming to a vote, and will he now commit to allowing such a vote following a full and fair debate?