It's starting to seem all of a piece.
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Yesterday, administration officials publicly acknowledged that CIA agents, with Justice Department authorization, had waterboarded three detainees. And the administration is eager to prevent that authorization from being threatened. According to Senate Dems, the White House has refused to strike a deal on pending nominees until the Senate deals with the Justice Department official who's authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding.
For more than three years, Steven Bradbury has been the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the crucial Justice Department office that has the power to issue "advance pardons," as former OLC head Jack Goldsmith put it. But Senate Democrats, because of Bradbury's role in approving the warrantless wiretapping program and enhanced interrogation techniques that include waterboarding, have opposed White House efforts to have him confirmed and remove his acting status.
That hasn't kept him from the job, however. It is, after all, a position that is supposed to require Senate confirmation. While Democrats, especially Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) have held firm, Bradbury has simply acted as the head of OLC. The Dems say that the administration has broken the law to keep him in the spot.