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Silberman, Pace receive Bush awards

The two, closely identified with his national security policy, join four others in being honored with the Medal of Freedom.

June 12, 2008|James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush will award the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to a veteran federal judge, Laurence H. Silberman, whose controversial role in national security issues has made him a champion to conservatives, and retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who was denied a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Also receiving the award are educator Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami; doctors Anthony S. Fauci, a leader in the understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and Benjamin S. Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon; and, posthumously, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame), the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress and a longtime leader on human rights issues, the White House announced Wednesday.

The medal, which is awarded by presidential directive and does not require congressional approval, honors "especially meritorious" contributions to U.S. security, world peace or "cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." The presentation ceremony will be held June 19 at the White House.

In choosing Silberman and Pace, Bush is focusing attention on two figures closely identified with the central elements of his national security policy, the campaign against terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Silberman was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered the second-most powerful court in the country, from 1985 to 2000 and was among the first judges to serve, in 2002, on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2004, he and former Sen. Charles S. Robb of Virginia headed a White House commission that investigated pre-Iraq war intelligence failures.

At the time, Herman Schwartz, an outspoken liberal law professor at American University in Washington, described Silberman as "fiercely partisan, pugnacious and very political."

The panel produced a report that sharply criticized intelligence failures before the war and found that more than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies remained poorly coordinated and resisted reform.

At least two of Silberman's former law clerks have gone on to establish themselves as key Bush administration allies in the national security arena: Viet D. Dinh, chief author of the USA Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and John C. Yoo, who as deputy assistant attorney general wrote a memorandum in 2002 widely viewed as permitting torture in the fight against terrorism.

The White House announcement said Silberman had "devoted his life to promoting, enforcing and defending the rule of law."

Pace was, in effect, forced into retirement after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates concluded that the fight to gain Senate confirmation to a second term as head of the Joint Chiefs would be too tough a battle, given the likelihood of sharp questioning over failures in Iraq.

Pace refused to step down, forcing the administration to declare publicly a year ago that it had decided to replace him as chairman. The post went to Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen.

The White House announcement of the honor called Pace "one of our nation's most accomplished and respected military officers."

Shalala recently led, with former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, a federal commission that examined the treatment of wounded veterans, and she was Health and Human Services secretary in the Clinton administration.

Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Carson is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Lantos, who died Feb. 11, was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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james.gerstenzang@latimes.com

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