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David S. Addington: A Second Act (Full Story)
Cheney's former chief counsel was the power behind the throne in the George W. Bush White House and the legal architect of the war on terror. But he’ll tell you not to believe the hype. By Kirk Victor
Comments () | Published June 6, 2011
Photographs by Sean McCormick
Congressional hearings often are predictable and orchestrated. Many lawmakers are scripted and aren’t deft at asking questions or following up with inquiries that shed light. Witnesses are tutored to avoid making waves, to be deferential, and to put the best face on whatever they’re asked about. So it was noteworthy when, on a summer day near the end of the George W. Bush administration, David Addington, then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, ditched the usual modus operandi when he testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. He was combative, sarcastic, and condescending.

Initially, the Vice President’s counsel had resisted making Addington available, but the lawyer agreed to come in response to a subpoena. Fiercely loyal to the Vice President, for whom he had served as a legal adviser, Addington often had been dubbed Cheney’s alter ego or Cheney’s Cheney. He was the point man in developing the legal rationale for the administration’s controversial policies after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

His fingerprints were said to be on the legal analysis that justified secret presidential actions, from eavesdropping on US citizens without court approval to sanctioning harsh treatment of detainees captured in the so-called war on terror.

Because of his reputation as a hard-driving advocate as well as his proclivity to eviscerate those who raised questions about his—and Cheney’s—expansive view of the powers of the President after 9/11, it was no surprise that Addington’s appearance provoked interest. His power-behind-the-throne image was summed up by an unnamed former White House official who described Addington to U.S. News as “the most powerful person no one has never heard of.”

Addington’s appearance before the Judiciary subcommittee was notable for another reason: He routinely eschewed the spotlight or anything else that brought scrutiny to himself. While many Washington movers and shakers covet media attention, Addington had little use for it.

His performance at the hearing reinforced his image as all too willing to use an acerbic style to make his case. Sticking it to members of Congress wasn’t exactly a selling point to prospective employers when, six months later, at the end of the Bush administration, Addington found himself looking for work.

Next: A man with a glowing resume—and lots of baggage


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Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 06/06/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles