Keep America Safe’s video on the Justice Department lawyers who previously worked on behalf of detained terrorism suspects has prompted quite a discussion, but John C. Yoo didn’t think the debate was necessary, reported the New York Times.
“What’s the big whoop?” said Yoo, the former DOJ Office of Legal Counsel official whose memorandums on torture and presidential power were used to justify controversial interrogation policies of the George W. Bush administration.
“The Constitution makes the president the chief law enforcement officer. We had an election. President Obama has softer policies on terror than his predecessor.
“He can and should put people into office who share his views,” Yoo told The Times. Once the American people know who the policy makers are, Yoo said, “they can decide whether they agree with him or not.”
The video aroused not only liberal outrage directed at the producers of the short film, but also division among conservative legal scholars, according to The Times. The video was produced by Keep America Safe, a conservative interest group in Washington, D.C., run by Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president.
Conservative members of the Federalist Society, the 25-year-old policy group devoted to conservative and libertarian legal ideals, have criticized the video, and said it violated the American legal principle that even unpopular defendants deserve a lawyer.
A letter issued by the Brookings Institution criticizing the “shameful series of attacks” on government lawyers was signed by several former Republican administration officials and conservative legal figures, including Kenneth W. Starr, the former special prosecutor, Charles D. Stimson, who resigned from the second Bush administration after suggesting that businesses might think twice before hiring law firms that had represented detainees, Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general, and Larry D. Thompson, a former deputy attorney general.
Richard A. Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who once taught Liz Cheney, said he found it “appalling” to see people equating work on detainee cases with a dearth of patriotism.
“You don’t want to give the impression that because you oppose the government on this thing, that means you’re just one of those lefties — which I am not,” he told The Times.
David M. McIntosh, a former member of Congress and a founder of the Federalist Society, agreed that a lawyer should not be judged by his clients, but he said it was legitimate to examine the agenda of the lawyers.
“Was the person acting merely as an attorney doing their best to represent a client’s case, or did they seek out the opportunity to represent them or write an amicus brief because they have a political or personal agenda that made them more interested in participating in those cases?” he said.
If the commitment to the cases is ideological, McIntosh said, it is reasonable to ask, “Is that the best attorney for the Justice Department?”