Steven Gill Bradbury(born September 12, 1958) is an American lawyer who served as Acting Assistant Attorney General (AAG) from 2005-2007, and Principal Deputy AAG from 2004 to 2009, heading the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the U.S. Department of Justice during President George W. Bush's second term. During his tenure in OLC, he authored a number of significant classified legal opinions, including opinions addressing the legality of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Bradbury was nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General for OLC but individual Democratic Senators put holds on his nomination, preventing the full Senate from voting on it, and Democratic leaders in the Senate instituted pro forma sessions of the Senate during scheduled recesses to prevent the President from giving him a recess appointment. Bradbury continued to serve as the acting chief of OLC until the end of the Bush Administration on January 20, 2009. He is currently a partner at the Washington, D.C office of Dechert LLP.
Bradbury was born in 1958 in Portland, Oregon, the youngest of four children. His father, Edward T. Bradbury, died when he was 11 months old, and his mother raised him by working nights and taking in laundry to supplement their Social Security income. He grew up in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Portland, where he attended Washington High School from 1972 to 1976 where he was student body president his senior year. Bradbury was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. from Stanford University in 1980 with a major in English.
After working in publishing and as a legal assistant in New York in the early 1980s, Bradbury attended the University of Michigan Law School, where he received his J.D., magna cum laude, in 1988. He was an editor for the Michigan Law Review and Order of the Coif. In October 1988, following graduation, he married Hilde Kahn, his law school classmate.
From 1988 to 1990, Bradbury worked as an associate at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. In 1990-1991, he served as a law clerk to Judge James L. Buckley on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After working as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel, 1991-1992, he served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States, 1992-1993.
Following his clerkship for Justice Thomas, Bradbury practiced law with Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., first as an associate from 1993 to 1994 and then as a partner from 1994 to 2004. In 1998, Bradbury was named one of the top 40 lawyers under 40 by Washingtonian. In his law practice at Kirkland & Ellis, he focused on antitrust (mergers and litigation), securities law (including class action litigation and regulatory investigations), and various other regulatory, constitutional, and commercial litigation matters, both at the trial and appellate levels.
In April 2004, Bradbury left private practice after being appointed as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the OLC under Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, becoming Acting Assistant Attorney General in February 2005. He was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Attorney General for OLC June 23, 2005. His nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2005 but was never voted on by the full Senate, due to Senate holds placed by four Democratic Senators. Their resistance was due in part to his memoranda concerning interrogations in the War on Terror and due to "unanswered questions about Mr. Bradbury’s role in" NSA warrantless surveillance programs.
Bradbury authored numerous significant legal opinions for OLC, many of which are published on OLC’s Web site. Among these opinions was one issued in August 2004 in which Bradbury concluded that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution secures an individual right to keep and bear arms. This opinion was cited throughout an amicus curiae brief by the Department of Justice, and its reasoning was adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Bradbury received a number of awards and honors while at OLC, including the Edmund J. Randolph Award for outstanding service to the Department of Justice, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the National Security Agency’s Intelligence Under Law Award, the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Community Legal Award, and the Criminal Division’s Award for Outstanding Law Enforcement Partnerships.
In May 2005, in response to requests from the CIA, Bradbury authored several memoranda that confirmed that so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not constitute torture, including waterboarding, walling, stress positions, slapping or striking a prisoner, exposure to extreme temperatures, dousing with cold water, and forced sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours (7½ days), even when used in combination. These memoranda found the CIA's practices to be lawful if applied in accordance with specified conditions, limitations, and safeguards, including those set forth in the agency’s interrogation procedures. Bradbury's memoranda were described by Democrats as an attempt to sidestep anti-torture laws and subvert a 2004 public Justice Department legal opinion characterizing torture as "abhorrent". These memoranda were publicly released by the Obama Administration on April 16, 2009.
In response to the 2006 Supreme Court decision Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Bradbury described portions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as "hopelessly vague" and represented the executive branch in urging Congress to enact legislation authorizing new military commission procedures.
Bradbury authored an additional memo dated July 2007, addressing the legality of a subset of interrogation techniques in light of new legal developments, including intervening legislation such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the December 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. The 2007 memo provided OLC approval for a more limited set of actions for use when interrogating high-value detainees. This approval encompassed six listed techniques, including temporary food deprivation (no less than 1,000 calories/day), sleep deprivation by being forced to hold a "standing position for as many as four days," and several types of physical striking.
In February 2008, Bradbury testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee about the legality of waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques. His testimony was criticized by numerous civil liberties advocates and legal scholars. Bradbury did not offer an opinion if waterboarding was illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act or the Military Commissions Act of 2006, but stated that these laws "would make it much more difficult to conclude that the practice was lawful today."
Near the end of the Bush Administration, Bradbury signed two memoranda for the files; these said that, during his tenure OLC had determined that certain legal propositions, previously stated in ten OLC opinions issued between 2001 and 2003 concerning executive power in the War on Terror, no longer reflected the views of OLC and "should not be treated as authoritative for any purpose." In addition, his memo said that some of the underlying opinions had been withdrawn or superseded and that "caution should be exercised" by the Executive Branch "before relying in other respects" on the other opinions that had not been superseded or withdrawn.
Following his term in OLC, Bradbury returned to private practice as a partner at Dechert LLP in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in antitrust, administrative litigation and enforcement actions, general commercial litigation, and appellate matters.
In the wake of the 2013 Global surveillance disclosures, Bradbury testified before Congress and authored several editorials in defense of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, including the collection of telephone metadata.
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