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Dawn Johnsen, Obama’s choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel, has been a strong and outspoken critic of presidential law-breaking.

Courtesy of Glenn Greenwald, the outstanding blogger and legal expert, on why the choice of Johnsen is so encouraging. The Office of Legal Counsel, Greenwald argues, “is probably the most consequential federal government office that remains relatively obscure.” Greenwald notes that “The legal opinions which it issues become, more or less automatically, the official legal position of the Executive Branch. It was from that office that John Yoo, Jay Bybee and others did so much damage, issuing now-infamous memoranda that established the regime of lawlessness that has dominated our political institutions over the last eight years.” This regime of lawlessness justified repeated illegal spying on Americans, green-lighted torture in contravention of US domestic and international legal obligations and excused the President from any responsibility for these actions.

After the systematic degradation of presidential accountability over the past eight years, Johnsen’s appointment is an encouraging sign that President-to-be Obama takes seriously the idea that there are, in fact, limits to Presidential power.

A good example of her views can be found here.

Greenwald’s post about Johnsen elaborates on her credentials for helping to restore such limits. You can read it here.

One other related point – also courtesy of Greenwald. He’s been documenting for years now the complicity of Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in the Bush illegalities. He has an especially incisive and disturbing post on that here.

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