A group that includes leading conservative lawyers and policy experts, former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and several senior officials of the last Bush administration is denouncing as “shameful” Republican attacks on lawyers who came to the Obama Justice Department after representing suspected terrorists.
Senate Republicans have demanded details of the lawyers' past work and Liz Cheney’s group “Keep America Safe” has questioned their “values." A drumbeat of Republican criticism forced the Justice Department reluctantly to identify seven of them last week. But the harshness of the criticism – Keep America Safe labeled a group of them the “Al Qaeda Seven” — has provoked a backlash from across the legal establishment.
Liz Cheney’s partner in Keep America Safe, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, wrote Sunday to dispute the notion that his group’s sharp-edged ad constituted an “attack” on the lawyers. His aim, he wrote, was to push for Justice to release their names and to raise “the question of whether former pro bono lawyers for terrorists should be working on detainee policy for the Justice Department.”
First of all, Bill Kristol's idiotic protestations that his character assassinations don't constitute an "attack" is the dumbest, most insulting bit of doublespeak I've seen since Bill Clinton tried to parse the definition of "is." Lumping anyone in with Al Qaeda in this day and age is a scandalous accusation, and one for which Cheney and Krisol should be deeply, inarguably ashamed. That is, if they were actually capable of shame, which I think we can all agree they are not.
Here we have an example of the New McCarthyism at its very worst. To use language like "Department of Jihad" to describe the Department of Justice is completely beyond the pale. From the statement denouncing these attacks:
The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams’s representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre. People come to serve in the Justice Department with a diverse array of prior private clients; that is one of the department’s strengths. The War on Terror raised any number of novel legal questions, which collectively created a significant role in judicial, executive and legislative forums alike for honorable advocacy on behalf of detainees. In several key cases, detainee advocates prevailed before the Supreme Court. To suggest that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees maligns the patriotism of people who have taken honorable positions on contested questions and demands a uniformity of background and view in government service from which no administration would benefit.
I have lamented the dearth of reasonable conservative thought in our current political environment, and I still think the GOP's present iteration is a sorry collection of religious zealots, incurious nativists, and naked corporate shills. [Confidential to GJ: this would be your cue to aver that the Democrats are just as bad.] However, the signatories of this statement (which includes Starr and Ted Olson, who has earned my admiration for wholly unrelated reasons) are standing up for something vital to the American character and system of justice, and for that they have my gratitude.