Phil Carter Quits Administration

Phil Carter Official DOD PhotoPhil 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.

UPDATENoah 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.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    Greenwald is wrong about Carter’s purported opposition to milititary tribunals. This is what Carter said in May of 2008: “I tend to think that we have botched the commissions process so badly that the only viable path at this point is to try these men in federal criminal court or by military courts-martial.” There are three options here: civilian courts, military courts-martial, or the special military tribunals created after 9/11. AFAIK Carter only ever had a problem with the third.

  2. DL says:

    If the NYT, buried it, it is doubtful that it was for personal reasons.

  3. Ugh says:

    If the NYT, buried it, it is doubtful that it was for personal reasons.

    Well sure, having our own personal gulag is embarrassing.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I had no idea gulags were as cozy as Gitmo. Somehow the idea of being allowed to pray, eat only food you like and play soccer was not widely publicized details of gulag life. Ugh, you are another example of wasted money for education you did not receive. You obviously belong to the “blame America first” crowd. You have any idea how rarely that gets to be practiced in foreign lands. I am sure blame Iran first is well tolerated in Iran. I would love to see you try to spread you drivel in Saudi Arabia. One trip to the town square for a shortening.

  5. Ugh says:

    ZRIII – as I said before, I enjoy your spoof comments.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    I had no idea gulags were as cozy as Gitmo. Somehow the idea of being allowed to pray, eat only food you like and play soccer was not widely publicized details of gulag life.

    So its okay to detain someone indefinitely without charge, hearing, or trial as long as they get enough to eat?

    My copy of the Constitution must be missing that part.

  7. gizmo says:

    James,

    Obama has been doing a whole lot of “alienating his base.” Voters should be able to expect that there is some similarity between campaign rhetoric and actual performance as POTUS. Obama is coming up short on so many fronts that I don’t believe a single thing he says anymore.

  8. steve says:

    I hope he blogs again. Always had an interesting perspective.

    Steve

  9. davod says:

    “So its okay to detain someone indefinitely without charge, hearing, or trial as long as they get enough to eat?”

    It gets a little old when you leave out the fact that they are unlawful enemy combatants and by now they have all had at least one hearing. Normal POWS can be held until the end of hostilities. Surely you do not argue for more entitlements than those given to real combatants who obey the rules of war.

    I was reading the other day that some of the German POWS were held up until 1949.

  10. steve says:

    If we had just made them POWs we could have held them almost indefinitely legally. That is part of the problem. Instead, we have given the jihadists continual recruiting material. Bruce Hoffman is now suggesting (secondhand from a friend, I have not seen the paper but maybe James has) that we a re seeing more self-starter, loners being influenced by internet material, like the stuff on Gitmo, to go out and commit violence.

    Steve

  11. TG Chicago says:

    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.

    But if he didn’t explicitly say “My reasons for leaving were not related to policy differences with the administration.” Since he didn’t say that, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to continue speculating.

    I’m not sure she’s asking for details about the personal issue that’s taking him away from the job. (I agree that that would be unnecessary.) She may just want him to fully squelch the possibility that his leaving was related to policy differences.

  12. Jim says:

    America I am one of those true believers. Contrary to Mr. Joyner’s view:
    “this is a classic case of a naive candidate being hit with reality when confronted with the reality of being responsible for America’s national security”
    I would argue that this about the appearance of national security. I thought Obama would be able to handle and confront Mr. Cheney’s propaganda of fear and demonstrate that the most powerful country in the world would and should be able to handle prosecuting terrorists and protecting the nation from terrorism without shredding the constitutional framework of this country. Instead, Mr. Obama stood in the National Archives and argue for preventative detention that most constitutional lawyers say violate the constitution. That’s the reason my hope has been diminished.

  13. davod says:

    “Instead, Mr. Obama stood in the National Archives and argue for preventative detention that most constitutional lawyers say violate the constitution. That’s the reason my hope has been diminished.”

    Most?