John B. Bellinger III
|John B. Bellinger, III|
|Legal Adviser of the Department of State|
April 6, 2005 – March 23, 2009
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||William Howard Taft IV|
|Succeeded by||Harold Hongju Koh|
|Alma mater||Princeton University;
Harvard Law School
John B. Bellinger, III is an American lawyer, who served as the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council during the George W. Bush Administration. He is now a partner at the Washington DC law firm Arnold & Porter, and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Education and earlier career
Bellinger was educated at St. Albans School in Washington, DC. Thereafter, he received his A.B. cum laude in 1982 from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and his J.D. cum laude in 1986 from Harvard Law School. He also received an M.A. in Foreign Affairs in 1991 from the University of Virginia, where he was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Foreign Affairs Fellowship.
Bellinger served as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice from 1997 to 2001. He served previously as Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1996), as General Counsel to the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (1995-1996), and as Special Assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster (1988-1991). From 1991 to 1995, he practiced law with Wilmer Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C.
National Security Council
In February 2001, Bellinger was appointed as Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council at the White House, where he served as the principal lawyer for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the NSC staff. He was in the White House Situation Room on 9-11 and later was the primary lawyer for the White House in dealing with the 9-11 Commission. He was one of the drafters of the legislation that created the Director of National Intelligence.
At the White House, Bellinger was considered a moderate and often clashed  with more conservative lawyers in the Administration over international law and the Administration’s detention policies, especially over the treatment of detainees. After 9-11, he and Rice were excluded by other officials in the Administration from the preparation of President Bush’s order establishing military commissions.
Bellinger managed the Senate confirmation process for Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and co-directed her State Department transition team. He was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate as the Legal Adviser of the State Department in April 2005. He continued to serve as a member of Rice’s “inner circle."
As Legal Adviser, Bellinger was the principal adviser on all domestic and international law matters to the Department of State, the Foreign Service, and the diplomatic and consular posts abroad. He was also the principal adviser on legal matters relating to the conduct of foreign relations to other agencies and, through the Secretary of State, to the President and the National Security Council.
Bellinger was part of a group of Bush Administration officials who advocated for minimum standards of treatment for detainees, protections for detainees prosecuted by military commissions, and the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. He helped persuade the White House to support the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (the McCain Amendment) and to close the secret CIA black sites in 2006. After the Supreme Court held in Hamdan that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applied to the US conflict with Al Qaida, Bellinger wrote a memo to the Department of Justice stating that the CIA interrogation program was not consistent with the Geneva Conventions. At the same time, Bellinger was also called upon to defend the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism policies to skeptical international audiences, serving as the Administration’s “chief flak catcher abroad.” He gave numerous speeches and interviews explaining the U.S. legal approach to terrorism. Rice called Bellinger “indefatigable” in trying to address the concerns of U.S. allies.
In 2006, Bellinger headed the U.S. delegation that negotiated the Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions that allowed the humanitarian aid societies of Israel and the Palestinian territories to join the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Federation.
Bellinger has been credited with leading the Bush Administration’s shift in approach towards the International Criminal Court in the Administration’s second term after President Bush agreed to the U.N. referral of the genocide in Darfur to the ICC in March 2005. In a series of speeches, Bellinger said the U.S. was prepared to assist the Court’s investigation in Sudan even if it did not intend to join the Rome Statute. He has urged Congress to amend the American Servicemembers Protection Act to allow the U.S. to provide more support to the Court in certain war crimes investigations.
In 2008, Bellinger represented the United States before the International Court of Justice in a case filed by Mexico after the Supreme Court in Medellin v Texas invalidated President Bush’s February 2005 order directing courts in Texas and other states to comply with the ICJ’s 2004 order in Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals that the United States review the convictions and death sentences of a group of Mexican nationals who had not been notified of their right to consular access under the Vienna Convention. He later testified before Congress in support of legislation that would allow federal courts to review the death sentences of foreign nationals who had not been notified of their rights to consular access.
Post Government Service
In 2009, after leaving the State Department, Bellinger joined the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter, where he is a partner in the firm’s public international law and national security law practices.
He is also an Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he directed a program on international justice He speaks and writes regularly on international law issues. He is a senior contributor to Lawfare, a national security law blog.
In 2010, Bellinger publicly defended Obama Administration officials who had been criticized for previously representing detainees at Guantanamo.
Bellinger has been critical of the Obama Administration’s heavy reliance on drone strikes to kill terrorists. In testimony before Congress in 2012, he urged the Obama Administration to do more to explain the legality of targeted killings and to make its drone program more transparent.
In 2013, Bellinger was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court by a group of former Republican officials in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.
Bellinger is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Law Institute, the American Council on Germany, and the British-American Project. He is also member of the Secretary State’s Advisory Committee on International Law. In 2012, he was appointed to the Defense Legal Policy Board. In October 2012, the American Law Institute named him as a Counselor for the Restatement Fourth, Foreign Relations Law.
Bellinger is a former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of his alma matter, St. Albans School. He is a Trustee of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation.
- "John B. Bellinger III". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- State Department biography, http://www.state.gov/outofdate/bios/48242.htm
- Mayer, Jane, The Dark Side, pp. 185-188
- In Cheney’s Shadow, Counsel Pushes the Conservative Cause,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A22665-2004Oct10.html
- Goldsmith, Jack, The Terror Presidency, p. 126;
- Frontline, “Cheney’s Law,” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/cheney/etc/script.html
- Rice, Condoleezza. No Higher Honor, p. 104
- Gellman, Barton, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, p. 166
- “Rice Taps Longtime Colleagues for Inner Circle,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/06/AR2005060601965_2.html
- Official State Department Biography, http://www.state.gov/outofdate/bios/48242.htm
- Tim Golden, “U.S. Is Examining a Plan to Bolster Rights of Detainees,” http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/27/politics/27detain.html?_r=0
- "Detainee Memo Created Divide in White House,” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/washington/01detain.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0
- Mayer, The Dark Side, p. 321.
- “Interrogation Debate Sharply Divided Bush White House,” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/04/us/politics/04detain.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
- “Making the Case: As the State Department Legal Adviser, John Bellinger ’82 Gets the Tough Questions,” https://www.princeton.edu/~paw/archive_new/PAW06-07/03-1025/features1_lawyer.html
- Speeches of the Legal Adviser, http://2001-2009.state.gov/s/l/rls/
- Bellinger, John, “Legal Issues in the War on Terrorism,” http://www.state.gov/s/l/2006/98861.htm
- Rice, No Higher Honor, p. 303.
- “For Israeli Aid Group, Long Road to Inclusion,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/30/AR2006083002938_2.html
- American Coalition for the International Criminal Court, “Bush Approach to the ICC,” http://www.amicc.org/usicc/bush
- “US Warms to Hague Tribunal,” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115024503087679549.html
- “US Official Floats Possibility of Assistance to Hague Court,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/11/AR2007061102347.htm
- Bellinger, John. “Congress Should Review Policies Toward War Crimes Court,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/congress-should-review-policies-toward-war-crimes-court/2012/06/21/gJQAN9RgtV_print.html
- Council on Foreign Relations Webpage, http://www.cfr.org/experts/international-law-international-law-national-security-and-defense/john-b-bellinger-iii/b6133
- “Another Bush Official Defends Smeared DoJ Lawyers,” http://prospect.org/article/another-bush-official-defends-smeared-doj-lawyers
- Bellinger, John. “Will Drone Strikes Become Obama’s Guantanamo,” http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-10-02/opinions/35279231_1_drone-strikes-anwar-al-awlaki-drone-program
- State Department Biography (2005). Retrieved January 6, 2006.
- Office of the Press Secretary, The White House (March 2, 2001). Statement by the Press Secretary. Press Release.
- "John B. Bellinger III". Arnold & Porter. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- This article incorporates public domain text from a Department of State biography and a White House press release.
William Howard Taft IV
|Legal Adviser of the Department of State
April 6, 2005 – March 23, 2009
Harold Hongju Koh