- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, says he is holding up nominations that the White House says are vital to the war on terror because the Senate is being denied information it needs for oversight of the war.

Mr. Levin has put holds on three nominees: Ben Powell, tapped to be the general counsel in the office of the new director of national intelligence; Alice Fisher, awaiting confirmation as head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Eric Edelman, whose nomination as undersecretary of defense for policy has been pending since May.

Under the parliamentary procedure, a single senator can stall any nomination.

“These are critical national security positions that need to be filled soon,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday.

In the case of Miss Fisher and Mr. Powell, Mr. Levin is seeking information on detainee interrogation policy, congressional staff said.

Mr. Powell’s nomination is stalled until Mr. Levin receives a copy of a document known as the “second Bybee memorandum,” which was prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department. Written by Jay Bybee, who was assistant attorney general, the memo reportedly contains a detailed consideration of the legality of a series of interrogation techniques.

Miss Fisher’s nomination is being blocked until Mr. Levin is allowed to personally interview an FBI agent who complained about purported abuses at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Levin’s chief dispute concerns documents relating to the role of Douglas Feith in building a case that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was allied with al Qaeda and even implicated in the September 11 plot.

Democrats have charged that Mr. Feith, who recently left his post as undersecretary of defense for policy, deliberately misrepresented the evidence to help bolster the case for war with Iraq.

Last week, President Bush gave a recess appointment to one of Mr. Feith’s deputies, Peter Flory, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy. Mr. Levin had been blocking Mr. Flory’s appointment for more than a year.

Mr. Edelman has been tapped to be Mr. Feith’s replacement, and his nomination languishes. Mr. Levin’s Republican counterpart, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner of Virginia, has urged a recess appointment for him, too.

Mr. Levin’s office said it could not respond to a request for comment. Democratic Senate aides who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr. Levin felt that he was left with no choice but to use his leverage to block nominees.

“We have been trying to get those documents for 18 months,” one Democratic staffer said of the Feith papers. “If [the administration] were willing to assert executive privilege, that would be one thing, but they won’t even do that. They are just stonewalling us.”

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