Scholar Who Brought Obama Into Chicago Law School Held Top Intelligence Clearance
August 31, 2012
Around the time former federal judge Michael McConnell lobbied Obama into a teaching position at Chicago Law School, he held top military- and intelligence clearance, reporting directly to Presidents Reagan and Bush on the “legality of US intelligence operations.”
By his own admission, constitutional scholar Michael W. McConnell- ironically a current “Reaganite for Romney” and fierce opponent of Obamacare- lobbied to get Barack Obama to lecture at Chicago Law School- in effect launching his lecturing career at the University- which in itself turned out to be the platform from which he was catapulted into the US Senate and by extension, the Presidency.
“We had the opportunity of chatting quite a bit”, McConnell told the Deseret News in 2011. “and I knew he was planning to return to the south side of Chicago,” McConnell said. “It just seemed like a natural (fit) to connect him with the law school.”
The article goes on to say that it might sound curious for a known and very esteemed conservative constitutional scholar to handpick a young, at that time unknown liberal for a teaching position at the Chicago Law School, were it not for the fact that McConnell throughout his career “has demonstrated a propensity for gravitating toward interesting assignments and compelling individuals.”
“In a vacuum, McConnell’s interaction with Obama could seem somewhat extraordinary”, the article explains, “but playing an integral role in the ascension of a future president of the United States cannot be considered mere coincidence when placed within the greater context of McConnell’s career.”.
McConnell’s career is indeed great. Widely regarded as the preeminent constitutional scholar on the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, McConnell has successfully argued in defense of the United States constitution, most notably signing a statement in support of a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
Speaking of the greater context mentioned, the article brings attention to McConnell’s position as one of three members of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board (PIOB). On November 29 1988 president Ronald Reagan announced his intention to appoint Michael W. McConnell to the Oversight Board (mention of his membership of this exclusive, appointment-only oversight board by the way is completely absent from his Wikipedia page).
In his capacity of member of this particular oversight board, McConnell enjoyed top secret military clearance for the period of no less than two years. From 1988 to 1990, under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush respectively, McConnell “reported directly to the Commander in Chief”, advising the Executive Branch on the legality of US intelligence operations at home and abroad. And it seems that McConnell’s credentials were greatly appreciated, as he went on to serve as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2002 to 2009. In addition, McConnell’s name appeared on the short list of candidates for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court on two separate occasions.
An Illinois law publication (On page 33 of the May 1990 edition of Illinois Issues) mentions some of the Intelligence Oversight Board’s functions:
“(…) the board monitors government intelligence activities to ensure compliance with U.S. law and the Constitution. The board meets every other month and reports to the U.S. attorney general. Members are appointed by the president and receive expenses only.”
The publication goes on to say that “Gov. James R. Thompson is in line for a seat on President George Bush’s Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB). He will join new appointee Amos Jordan of the Center for International Strategic Studies and current men Michael W. McConnell, assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s law school, on the three-member board.”
Only one paragraph before the one mentioning McConnell in relation to the PIOB, a familiar name pops up:
“Barak Obama (misspelling preserved), formerly a community organizer on Chicago’s far south side, was elected president of the Harvard Law Review by its 80 editors on February 5 (1990). Currently a resident of Somerville, Mass., Obama entered Harvard’s law school in 1988. The first African American to head the Review, he said in a February 9 PBS interview that he wants to make it a forum for liberal, conservative and minority perspectives. His future plans include the practice of law for a few years and a return to the inner city as either an organizer or a politician.”
Obama of course chose the latter. This little biography is interesting as Obama quite openly stated he is interested in practicing law only for a few years, after which he is determined to pursue a career as politician or organizer. As this quote dates from May of 1990, McConnell must have been aware that attracting Obama into Chicago Law School would only mean having him on board for a couple of years after which the bird would certainly ascend to greater heights. In reality, Obama hung around a bit longer than just a few years, combining the job with his senate position.
Most interestingly, McConnell attracted the young Barack Obama in his dual role as law scholar at the Law School and member of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board. Around the time he successfully convinced the Law School’s former dean Douglas Baird to approach Barack Obama for a permanent teaching position, McConnell- lecturing off and on- held top military and intelligence clearance- including, we may speculate, into operations assessing individuals with future political aspirations- which after all is an integral part of the intelligence communities since the 1950s.
In 2009, Robin Mordfin tells us something regarding the details in the Chicago Law School’s Alumni Magazine:
“The future President came to the attention of the Law School when Michael McConnell, ’79, a professor at the Law School at the time who is now a federal judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, told then-Dean Baird about an impressive editor at the Harvard Law Review who was doing an excellent job editing McConnell’s submission. Baird reached out to Obama and asked him about teaching. Having already made plans to write a book on voting rights after graduation, Obama refused the offer. So Baird took a different approach and offered him a Law and Government Fellowship, which would allow him to work on his book and would perhaps lead him to develop an interest in teaching. Obama accepted the offer and began the fellowship in the fall of 1991.”
A 2008 article in the New York Times states that Obama was offered his position on little more than editing-suggestions he made on one of McConnell’s articles as published in the Harvard Law Review. The notion that mere “editing suggestions on an article” would be enough motivation for Baird and McConnell to go out of their way to bring the young lawyer on board is, on face value, absurd. The additional fact that Obama insisted on writing his book on university payroll has also raised eyebrows, especially given the fact that back then, Barack Obama was still only a young man at the start of his career. For some reason McConnell and the Chicago Law School’s Dean were eager enough to offer young Barack a Government Fellowship, allowing him to quietly continue on with his book, hoping he- as Mordfin writes, might “develop an interest in teaching.”
An unprecedented thing, from whatever angle you approach the affair. The affair becomes somewhat more understandable when we view this history in light of McConnell’s appointment to the highly exclusive President’s Intelligence Oversight Board- a position in which McConnell was authorized to investigate the most top-secret activities in American intelligence operations. Of course, McConnell was and is bound by confidentiality and cannot disclose anything classified above the level of “restricted”. The fact that he now openly, even loudly opposes the president’s constitutional violations perhaps is a sign that the Law Scholar tries to make amends for the role he played in Obama’s ascension.
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