Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Harison’
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Earlier Wednesday, Justice Department officials confirmed to FoxNews the list of DOJ attorneys dubbed the “al-Qaeda Seven” — a group of lawyers lambasted in a Keep America Safe advertisement who represented Guantanamo detainees prior to their government service.

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West (Lonnie Tague/DOJ)

Surprisingly, that list includes Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West, despite the fact that his representation of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh has long been public knowledge.

In 2002, West joined a team of lawyers that represented Lindh. He discussed the case on a chat with The Washington Post back in 2002 and has appeared in numerous news articles as one of Lindh’s lawyers.

“West’s representation of Lindh is probably his best-known work, and was prominently mentioned in the ledes of several articles reporting on his nomination,” writes Media Matters.

West’s representation of Lindh was brought up during his confirmation hearing in March 2009, but few voiced any opposition to his nomination at that time. Ultimately only four Republican senators voted against West’s nomination. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has pressed for information on the detainee lawyer issue, voted in favor of West’s confirmation.

Although West was not identified by name, on Feb. 18 Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich publicly acknowledged West’s role in the Lindh case. In a letter to Grassley, Weich wrote that “the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division previously represented one Afghanistan detainee, and his former employer represents other detainees.”

A spokesman for Keep America Safe said that disclosing solely the position of someone who represented terrorism suspects - even if there is only one person who fit such a description - is not good enough.

“If you only give the position and not the name, it’s another barrier to disclosing information that should be readily available,” Aaron Harison of Keep America Safe told Main Justice.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

While the Keep America Safe ad questioned the patriotism and loyalty of several DOJ lawyers who previously represented detainees, it made no mention of several currently serving and retired military lawyers who represented detainees.

In an interview with Main Justice, Keep America Safe spokesman Aaron Harison said there was a distinction between Judge Advocate General (JAG) military lawyers who were doing their job and private lawyers working on a pro bono basis, who he called “ideologues” looking to “get these guys off the hook.” Jennifer Daskal, one of the Justice Department lawyers who previously advocated for detainees while she worked for Human Rights Watch, has a “sympathetic outlook” on Guantanamo detainees, said Harison.

Harison said that private attorneys advocating for detainees raised a lot of questions because “sometimes you can’t make the distinction” between representation and being “soft on terror.” Harison also said the organization was more concerned that the DOJ lawyers are soft on terror than that they hold sympathetic views about al Qaeda.

In contrast, JAG lawyers were assigned to cases, Harison said, unlike the pro bono lawyers who wanted Guantanamo cases “to write a book or get media attention.”

Harison neglected to mention that some military officers did volunteer to take on the cases of Guantanamo detainees, including retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who served as the former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions and has since argued that they should be abandoned. When the commissions were first formed, David said he volunteered to be chief defense counsel, according to The American Prospect.

“I thought for the good of our system, they needed zealous representation,” Davis told the publication. “I don’t think that anyone, because they signed up to represent a detainee means they’ve signed up with al-Qaeda.”

Harison also told Main Justice that the organization’s main goal was transparency. While the group acknowledged that detainees had a right to counsel, the Justice Department should not employee “advocates for terrorist detainees arguing for their outright release” Harison said.

According to Harison, the response to the ad was so overwhelming that the Keep America Safe Web site briefly went down because of traffic. The group also is experiencing “excellent growth” since launching in October, he added.