In a little-noticed story earlier this week, the Dept. of Defense announced that "General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II is returning to private life next month."

Haynes is known for being one of the most hackish Bushistas in the DOD, author of one of the worst torture memos (PDF) of the bunch. It claimed that "In light of the President’s complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the President’s ultimate authority in these areas." In other words, when we’re at war — which is whenever the president says we’re at war — the president is not bound by law. Yay for dictatorship!

This is via Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, who also dug up one of Haynes’ other greatest hits, his brief in Center for Biological Diversity v. Pirie (PDF). In that case, conservationists sued to protect an important nesting ground for migratory birds in the Pacific; they argued that the U.S. military’s bombing of the island in live fire training exercises violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

As BushGreenwatch describes, Haynes argued that bombing the birds made them more rare, and "bird watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one."

Yes: bombing is good for birding. Savor it! That is some good sh*t.

In 2002, a federal judge ruled against the military, writing (PDF) that "there is absolutely no support in the law for the view that environmentalists should get enjoyment out of the destruction of natural resources because that destruction makes the remaining resources more scarce and therefore valuable. The Court hopes that the federal government will refrain from making or adopting such frivolous arguments in the future." Ouch.

After that stinging rebuke, Bush responded the only way he could: by nominating Haynes to a lifetime appointment on the federal appeals court.