Army vet who opposed Bush detainee policies takes key job

The Obama administration has chosen a lawyer and Iraq war veteran who has denounced U.S. detention policy to direct detainee affairs at the Department of Defense.

Until starting at the Pentagon this week, Phillip E. Carter, 33, was an associate at New York’s Park Avenue law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge. He specialized in government contracting and national security regulation.

A former Army captain, he also blogged on national security issues at a Washington Post website, Intel Dump.

In 2005-06, he served in Iraq with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division as an advisor to the Iraqi police.

On his return, he shared some lessons he learned in a radio interview aired on National Public Radio.

One tip: “Diplomacy is more important than force,” he said. “Force creates more enemies than it removes. For every one insurgent you kill you create maybe 10 or 20 Iraqis with blood debts against the U.S.”

Carter since left the Army after nine years in both active duty and as a reservist with military police and civil affairs units.

In October 2004, when the Pentagon said intelligence indicated that some former Guantanamo detainees had “returned to the battlefield,” Carter blamed policy “blowback” from a White House decision to “shred the Geneva Conventions.”

“It hardly takes an expert to say that the way to win the war on terrorism is not to create more of it,” he wrote in a commentary published on “But the haphazard, extralegal, credulous policies at Guantanamo have done just that.”

His Defense Department job — whose formal title is deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs — is a post that was created by the Bush administration to oversee and develop detention policies after the public saw leaked photos of guards brutalizing detainees at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Three appointees held the job during the Bush administration: Matthew Waxman, Charles “Cully” Stimson and Sandra Hodgkinson. It’s a civilian post, approximate in rank to a two-star general.

Carter becomes the Pentagon's first detainee affairs executive since President Barack Obama put Attorney General Eric Holder in charge of emptying the prison camps in southeast Cuba by Jan. 22.

Carter got his law degree in 2004 from the UCLA School of Law. Two years ago, he told an alumni magazine in an article called “Renaissance Soldier” that he was ending his Army career.

“Once you’ve gone to combat,” he said, “there is nothing left to prove to yourself or anyone else.”

He also said in the 2007 article that he criticized U.S. policy because “I felt that an honest dialogue about our means and ends in the war on terrorism was incredibly important. With respect to some of the things happening at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, I saw the very soul of our military and our country at stake.”