Steven G. Bradbury

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For other people named Steven Bradbury, see Steven Bradbury (disambiguation).
Bradbury in 2013

Steven G. Bradbury is an American lawyer who served as Acting Assistant Attorney General from 2005-2009, 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 authorizing the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques", which are frequently described as torture.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Bradbury was born in 1958 in Portland, Oregon, the youngest of four children. His father 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.[6] He attended Washington High School in Portland from 1972 to 1976 where he was student body president his senior year.[7] Bradbury was the first in his family to graduate from college,[6] 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 Article Editor for the Michigan Law Review and Order of the Coif.[4]

Legal career[edit]

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.[4][6]

Following his clerkship for Justice Thomas, Bradbury practiced law with Kirkland & Ellis[6] 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.[8] 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.

Office of Legal Counsel[edit]

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,[9] becoming Acting Assistant Attorney General in 2005. He was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Attorney General for OLC in June 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 the use of torture during interrogations in the War on Terror[10] and due to "unanswered questions about Mr. Bradbury’s role in" NSA warrantless surveillance programs.[2][9]

Bradbury authored numerous significant legal opinions for OLC, many of which are published on OLC’s Web site.[11] 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.[12] This opinion was cited throughout an amicus curiae brief by the Department of Justice,[13] reasoning which was adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States in District of Columbia v. Heller.[14]

In 2007, Bradbury approved an OLC opinion to the Social Security Administration that endorsed granting social security benefits to the non-biological child of a same-sex union.[15]

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.[4][5]

Memoranda concerning the War on Terror[edit]

Main article: Torture memos

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, striking a prisoner,[16][3] exposure to extreme temperatures,[1][3] dousing with cold water,[17] and forced sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours (7½ days),[17][18][19][9][20] even when used in combination.[21] 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.[16] 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".[1] 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 the Geneva Conventions' prohibition of torture as "hopelessly vague"[22] and argued that military tribunals should admit evidence obtained during coercive interrogations.[23][24]

Bradbury authored an additional memo dated July 2007, seeking to reconcile the interrogation techniques with new developments, including intervening legislation such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the December 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. In response to this and other new legislation, the 2007 memo provided legal authorization and 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.[25][26]

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.[27][28]

On April 15, 2009, Bradbury's successor, Acting Assistant Attorney General David J. Barron withdrew four OLC memoranda pertaining to CIA interrogations, including three signed by Bradbury.[29][30]

Post-OLC career[edit]

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.[4][5]

During the 2012 presidential election, Steven Bradbury served as an advisor to Mitt Romney's campaign on matters of national security law.[31][21]

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.[32]


  1. ^ a b c Shenon, Philip; Lichtblau, Eric (2008-01-24). "Justice Nomination Seen as Snub to Democrats". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-12-28. 
  2. ^ a b "Webb opens, closes vacant Senate session". CNN. December 26, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c Miller, Greg; Schmitt, Richard B. (2007-10-06). "CIA doesn't use torture, Bush says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-07-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Steven G. Bradbury". Dechert. n.d. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  5. ^ a b c Passarella, Gina (2009-07-13). "DOJ Lawyer Who Argued Legality of Waterboarding Scores BigLaw Partnership". The Legal Intelligencer. Retrieved 2015-12-28. (registration required (help)). 
  6. ^ a b c d Shane, Scott; Johnston, David; Risen, James (2007-10-04). "Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  7. ^ Duin, Steve (April 24, 2008). "Once upon a time at WaHi". The Oregonian. Retrieved March 24, 2010. [dead link]
  8. ^ Washingtonian (Sept. 1998), pp. 120-21.
  9. ^ a b c Khanna, Satyam (2007-10-16). "Durbin, Feingold, Kennedy Demand Bush Withdraw Nominee For DOJ Office Of Legal Counsel". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  10. ^ Shane, Scott (2007-10-29). "U.S. struggles with taint of torture". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  11. ^ Office of Legal Counsel. "Memoranda and Opinions". United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  12. ^ Steven G. Bradbury; Howard C. Nielson, Jr.; C. Kevin Marshall (2004-08-24). "WHETHER THE SECOND AMENDMENT SECURES AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT: MEMORANDUM OPINION FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL" (PDF). Office of Legal Counsel. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-22. 
  14. ^ See 554 U.S. 570, 128 S. Ct. 2753 (2008). A review of the opinion for the Court in Heller reveals that it closely tracks the August 2004 OLC opinion in both the structure and substance of its legal analysis.[according to whom?]
  15. ^ "Justice for Gays". The Washington Post. 2008-07-05. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  16. ^ a b Mark Mazzetti; Scott Shane (April 16, 2009). "Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A.". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2009. 
  17. ^ a b Mark Benjamin (2010-03-09). "Waterboarding for dummies". Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury wrote in a May 10, 2005, memo authorizing continued use of waterboarding 
  18. ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (May 10, 2005). "Memorandum for John Rizzo" (PDF). ACLU. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  19. ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (May 10, 2005). "Memorandum for John Rizzo" (PDF). ACLU. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  20. ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (May 30, 2005). "Memorandum for John Rizzo" (PDF). ACLU. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b Savage, Charlie (2012-09-27). "Election to Decide Future Interrogation Methods in Terrorism Cases". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  22. ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (2006-09-18). "Ask the White House". Retrieved 2016-08-28. But other provisions of Common Article 3 are hopelessly vague and subject to almost unlimited interpretation – such as its prohibition on “outrages upon person dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment. 
  23. ^ Diamond, John; Biskupic, Joan (2006-07-11). "Geneva Conventions cover Gitmo detainees". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-12-28. 
  24. ^ Zernike, Kate (2006-07-13). "White House Prods Congress to Curb Detainee Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-10. 
  25. ^ Steven G. Bradbury (2009-09-03). "MEMORANDUM FOR JOHN A. RIZZO ACTING GENERAL COUNSEL, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Re: Application of the War Crimes Act, the Detainee Treatment Act, and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to Certain Techniques that May Be Used by the CIA in the Interrogation of High Value al Qaeda Detainees" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. 
  26. ^ Eviatar, Daphne (2009-08-27). "Memos Suggest Legal Cherry-Picking in Justifying Torture: DOJ Lawyers' Analysis Changed Little Despite New Legal Backdrop". Washington Independent. Archived from the original on 2009-08-29. Retrieved 2015-12-28. 
  27. ^ "Department of Justice Releases Nine Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda and Opinions". United States Department of Justice. 2009-03-09. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  28. ^ "Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda". United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  29. ^ Barron, David J. (2009-04-15). "WITHDRAWAL OF OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL CIA INTERROGATION OPINIONS" (PDF). Office of Legal Counsel. Retrieved 2016-07-10. Four previous opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel concerning interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency are withdrawn and no longer represent the views of the Office. 
  30. ^ Miller, Greg; Meyer, Josh (2009-04-17). "Obama assures intelligence officials they won't be prosecuted over interrogations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-07-10. 
  31. ^ Rosenthal, Andrew (2012-09-27). "Will Waterboarding Make a Comeback?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  32. ^ Bradbury, Steven G. (2013-07-22). "NSA phone collection efforts shouldn't be constrained". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-10. 

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