The “al Qaeda Seven” video released Tuesday has prompted quite a discussion.
Made by Keep America Safe, the conservative non-profit founded by Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol, the video released Tuesday slams Attorney General Eric Holder for not naming seven current Department of Justice attorneys who represented alleged terrorist detainees before joining the administration.
Here’s what some people are saying on the Web:
Smear Campaign. Over at the Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman writes, “Grassley knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s taking one of the strengths of the American justice system — the fact that everyone is entitled to legal representation — and implying that it’s unseemly. It’s a testament to the weakness of his character that he will never forthrightly accuse these attorneys of what he’s implying — sympathy with accused terrorists — in a way that they could refute. What a pathetic excuse for a man. Those of us in the media have an obligation to call this smear campaign what it is.”
Holder is trying to hide something. Rich Trzupek of Big Journalism wrote, “The proposition that Holder’s attorneys should somehow be exempt from this kind of close examination, particularly when they are engaged in a war on terror that threatens our very way of life, is ludicrous.
“But then, the idea that we can prosecute that war effectively while treating terrorists to the legal niceties that one affords the local pickpocket is equally ludicrous. If Obama and Holder are determined to use the justice system to prosecute religious zealots bent on injustice, the least they can do is to ensure that the prosecutors involved in this quixotic effort have their heart in it. By refusing to even name the Al Qaeda 7, much less address their qualifications and motivations, Obama and Holder have demonstrated once again that national security won’t stand in the way of political correctness in this brave new hopey/changey era. It won’t be long, I fear, before we will pay the price their spectacular naiveté.”
There is no ethical breach. NYU law professor Stephen Gillers told the TPMmuckraker that “It is not a conflict of interest under the rules of any U.S. jurisdiction for a government lawyer who has represented detainees in private practice to work on detainee issues at the Justice Department.”
“They, and a lawyer who has represented detainees, can work in the same field for government so long as they stay away from the specific matters on which they worked in private life,” Gillers added.
But we can’t really know that. A poster at National Review Online Daniel Foster said he doubted that DOJ attorneys are subject to ethics and disclosure rules as required.
“Of course, the issue of whether the unnamed attorneys are acting ethically can’t even be properly posed until we know who they are,” Foster wrote.
Listen to the United States Supreme Court. On Think Progress, a liberal blog supported by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Faiz Shakir wrote, “Many on the right have conveniently neglected to mention that the United States Supreme Court sided with the Obama attorneys. One of the targeted attorneys is Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, the lawyer who won Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the case that struck down the Bush administration’s military commissions system. Another target, Justice Department lawyer Jennifer Daskal, had signed her name to an amicus brief in the Boumediene v. Bush case arguing that Gitmo detainees be accorded habeas corpus rights to challenge their convictions. The Supreme Court sided with Daskal’s position.
“So the bottom line is that, having been on the losing side of these Supreme Court decisions, the right wing has decided to continue its vindictive fight by smearing the lawyers who prevailed in their advocacy for the rule of law.”
Foxes guarding the hen house. David Davenport of the Hoover Institute said in an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle that conflicts of interest is not the only problem. “Second is the appearance of bias or an agenda, that the hens have taken over what is supposed to be the foxes’ den. The Department of Justice is supposed to be prosecuting terrorists, not coddling them. What are we to think if the organized crime unit brings in nine mob lawyers? At least one of these nine was with a human rights advocacy group and has no prosecutorial experience. For an administration that preaches pragmatism and not ideology, it’s at least a question mark, if not a black mark.”