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Civil Libertarians Pretty Pleased With Dawn Johnsen at OLC

As Daphne blogged earlier today, Dawn Johnsen of Indiana University Law School is going to helm the Justice Dept.’s Office of Legal Counsel, a crucial position for the balance between civil liberties and national security. (Under the Bush administration, it became the go-to office for rubber-stamping the legality of torture, indefinite detention and warrantless surveillance.) Civil libertarians appear fairly happy with the appointment.

The ACLU doesn’t take positions on nominees, but “it’s a suggestion that the Obama administration will carry through on a committment to respect the rule of law,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s Washington director. Fredrickson, who knows Johnsen personally, said she was optimistic about the new prospective OLC chief, owing to Johnsen’s legal writings on issues like executive authority.

“To the extent she helps restore the boundaries of the executive branch vis-a-vis the other [governmental] branches,” Fredrickson said, “it’s an important effort.”

Fredrickson’s not alone. “Having looked at her writings on the subject,” said Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a prepared statement, “we’re happy to see that the president is appointing someone who understands that the Office of Legal Counsel should provide a forthright and honest evaluation of the legality of proposed executive action rather than as a rubber stamp on presidential policy.”

Glenn Greenwald is pretty satisfied as well. Blogging at Salon, the man who pretty much nixed the John Brennan appointment to CIA rounds up a bunch of Johnsen’s writings on torture and executive authority and pronounces it “a positive sign.”

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