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Profile: William P. Barr

Positions that William P. Barr has held:

  • US Attorney General (1991-1993)

William P. Barr was a participant or observer in the following events:

The newly appointed general counsels of each executive branch receive a memo from William Barr, the new head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The memo, entitled “Common Legislative Encroachments on Executive Branch Authority,” details the top 10 ways in which, in Barr’s view, Congress tries to interfere with executive branch powers. The list includes:
bullet “4. Micromanagement of the Executive Branch”;
bullet “5. Attempts to Gain Access to Sensitive Executive Branch Information”;
bullet “9. Attempts to Restrict the President’s Foreign Affairs Powers.”
The memo unequivocally endorses the “unitary executive theory” of the presidency (see April 30, 1986), despite that theory’s complete rejection by the Supreme Court (see June 1988). Barr also reiterates the belief that the Constitution requires the executive branch to “speak with one voice”—the president’s—and tells the general counsels to watch for any legislation that would protect executive branch officials from being fired at will by the president, one of the powers that Barr and other unitary executive proponents believe has been illegally taken by Congress. “Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved,” Barr writes. Reflecting on Barr’s arguments, law professor Neil Kinkopf, who will later serve in the OLC under President Clinton, will later write: “Never before had the Office of Legal Counsel… publicly articulated a policy of resisting Congress. The Barr memo did so with belligerence, staking out an expansive view of presidential power while asserting positions that contradicted recent Supreme Court precedent. Rather than fade away as ill-conceived and legally dubious, however, the memo’s ideas persisted and evolved within the Republican Party and conservative legal circles like the Federalist Society.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 57-59]

Entity Tags: Federalist Society, Neil Kinkopf, US Department of Justice, William P. Barr, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Republican Party

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Attorney General William Barr appoints Nicholas Bua, a retired federal judge from Chicago, as his special counsel to investigate and advise him on the Inslaw controversy. The affair has been running for nearly a decade and stems from a dispute over a contract signed by the Justice Department and Inslaw in 1982 (see March 1982). However, because Bua does not have independent status, the House Judiciary Committee will comment, “as long as the investigation of wrongdoing by former and current high level Justice officials remains under the ultimate control of the department itself, there will always be serious doubt about the objectivity and thoroughness of the inquiry.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Nicholas Bua, US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, William P. Barr

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The House Judiciary Committee asks US Attorney General William Barr to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Iraqgate. [Covert Action Quarterly, 1992]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

US Attorney General William Barr rejects the House Judiciary Committee’s request for him to appoint an independent counsel (see July 9, 1992), reasoning that the committee’s accusations are too “vague.” He informs them that the Justice Department will instead continue with its own “investigation” of Iraqgate. [Covert Action Quarterly, 1992]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

One of the main questions on the minds of government lawyers is how to criminally prosecute captured members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. A few days after 9/11, William P. Barr, a former attorney general, suggests to Timothy E. Flanigan, deputy White House counsel, to use so-called military commissions. Barr first thought of using such military commissions to try the suspects of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, but this was rejected at the time. “I thought it was a great idea,” Flanigan says. [New York Times, 10/24/2004]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, Timothy E. Flanigan

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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