Phil Carter Quits Administration
Phil Carter, well known to longtime denizens of the blogosphere as the former proprietor of Intel Dump, has suddenly resigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy. The NYT buries this news on A20:
The Defense Department official in charge of closing the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has resigned after only seven months in the job, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Phillip Carter, who was named deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy in April, resigned last Friday because of “personal issues,” a Pentagon official said. Mr. Carter could not be reached for comment and no other reasons were given for his departure.
Mr. Carter, 34, a lawyer and an Army adviser to the Iraqi police in Baquba in 2005 and 2006, was in charge of veterans outreach in President Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Mr. Carter’s departure comes as the administration has acknowledged that it will not be able to close the prison by Jan. 22, the self-imposed deadline Mr. Obama announced immediately after taking office.
Mr. Carter has also left in the middle of the administration’s efforts to prosecute some of the Guantánamo detainees and find a location in the United States to house perhaps 50 to 100 terrorism suspects indefinitely. The Cuba prison now has 215 detainees.
Phil’s extraordinarily talented, having reached such an exalted position at a very young age through hard work rather than connections. He is an autodidact expert on terrorism and related matters, having established himself as not only a leading blog authority on the subject but one who was regularly published in Slate, the Washington Post (which later enticed Phil to move his blog to their space) and elsewhere. One of the most thoughtful critics of the Iraq War, he was called to active duty from the Army Reserves and served there ably and honorably as a captain.
While the timing of Phil’s departure suggests a principled political opposition to Obama policy, the “personal issues” could be real rather than a polite dodge. Glenn Greenwald has some not unreasonable speculation on the former front.
I have no idea what actually motivated Carter’s abrupt resignation, but here’s what I do know: so many of the detention and other “War on Terror” policies Obama has explicitly adopted were the very same ones which Carter (as well as Obama) repeatedly railed against during the Bush years, in Carter’s case primarily in blogs he maintained both at The Washington Post and at Slate. Whatever else is true, the policies Obama has adopted in the last six months in the very areas of Carter’s responsibilities were ones Carter vehemently condemned when implemented by Bush.
Greenwald spends the next several paragraphs laying out that case in a very convincing manner.
Ironically, given that Phil was a relatively senior appointee in the administration, my position on these issues is closer to the president’s than his. But this is perhaps the most substantive issue area in which President Obama most sharply differs from Candidate Obama. From my perspective, this is a classic case of a naive candidate being hit with reality when confronted with the actuality of being responsible for America’s national security and I applaud the president for alienating his base rather than doing the wrong thing. But for a true believer, I could see how the dashing of Hope and lack of Change could be too much to bear.
UPDATE: Noah Schachtman, a mutual acquaintance and good friend of Phil’s, talked to him on the phone and was told, “I made this tough decision for personal reasons, even though I loved the job and the work we were doing. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to serve again.” Phil says the same in an email to me. I see no reason to doubt his word.
Laura Rozen thinks it’s odd that Phil hasn’t been more specific. Maybe he’s operating under the presumption that the details are none of our business.