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Obscure division gets high Obama priority

NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The Office of Legal Counsel, what has been an obscure U.S. Justice Department division, will get a high priority in an Obama administration, officials say.

Normally, the OLC attracted attention only when something went wrong. During the Bush years, the office became notorious as giving interrogators wide latitude on using coercive techniques with foreign detainees.

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In the coming Obama administration, it shows signs of new life and transition officials see it as among the most consequential and sought after Justice Department posts, USA Today said.

"There's never been a time when the Office of Legal Counsel was more obviously important than it is now, precisely because it has been so abused," says Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe, a Barack Obama supporter and former teacher of the president-elect. "I think that it's fair to infer from the involvement of people deeply familiar with the office that it is a matter of high priority."

Several key transition figures previously worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the president on his obligations under the Constitution and federal law.

One of them, Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, was among those most publicly critical of OLC's backing of counter-terrorism measures, particularly aggressive interrogation techniques.

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Johnsen, an OLC chief under President Bill Clinton and now a transition team leader for justice and civil rights, accused OLC in Senate testimony of providing "plainly erroneous" views of Bush's constitutional power.

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