Wonders never cease

I never thought I would see the day that I would find myself nodding in agreement with Ken Starr. Behold the power of Liz Cheney!! (*cue pipe organ music, thunderclap*) Via Politico:

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.


  1. New McCarthyism? Gee, I dunno about that. I would agree that the rubric AQ7 is inflammatory, but on the other hand I find the Justice Department's refusal to identify the detainee advocates to be troubling, if not inflammatory as well. After all, the activity is, and I quote, "honorable advocacy" taken by people with "honorable positions." Why they need anonymity as public servants advising the Administration on National Security matters is an interesting question. I'm sure you would agree that if, say, the Bush Justice Department employed "honorable advocates" for extreme rightwing civil rights opponents who defended said nutters before the Supremes, it would be improper to cloak them with anonymity. A fortiori this should apply to those who defend our nation's enemies, who are not even citizens.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and transparency is the best way to retain the trust of the people. We should demand better of our government than the feckless leadership our Justice Department currently operates under. One bad decision follows another as day follows night. Holder is clearly not up to the job.

  2. GJ, I respectfully disagree. Given the rancor in this debate, and the vicious slurs against the people involved, I think the Administration has every right to shield the anonymity of these people.

    I also disagree that the hypothetical situation you describe would be one in which I would question a similar decision.

  3. The decision to hide the names of these honorable advocates was taken before a single slur was cast. What is gained by the DOJ refusing to be transparent?

    I can understand and agree with a decision to keep private legal advice given by a DOJ attorney, but to refuse to identify former clients? That way lies madness; next, we'll have the DOJ hiding who worked for Cigna, Chevron, and Boeing. Surely you'll agree that wouldn't be proper.

  4. I think this kind of thing needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis, and in this particular case I think it is defensible, given our present circumstances.

  5. "Why they need anonymity as public servants advising the Administration on National Security matters is an interesting question." No, it isn't. It is actually pretty damn stupid. We shield plenty of peoples names all the time for their own safety and security.
    Sunlight is the best disinfectant is just a stupid aphorism (and not even true) Would you want a star witness against the mobs family and location published over every newspaper? Do you really imagine we would have witnesses? There is zero reason for me to know the names of these Lawyers, why subject them to potential Al Qaeda attack if the defendants are found guilty? Or potential attack from some nutjob? Did you even consider that?
    If the Lawyers agree to have their name publicized, that is their right because it is their risk. If you do your job well within the parameters of the law, leave these people alone. Respect their privacy. Have some decency for once in your life.


  6. by the way dr.dan, I am not surprised by this. There are a lot more sane Republicans than insane ones. It is just that the insane ones get all the press attention. This really should be an utter non issue, people should have simply laughed at Tin eared Lizzy for such silliness.


  7. charo, every single defense (and prosecuting) attorney is subject to a very real threat of retaliation due to an adverse verdict or some loose wacko. That isn't a good enough reason to hide names, and indeed, we don't do that in the US legal system. Our criminal legal system is based on the public's open access to the proceedings of our courts. There are exceptions, particularly for national defense, but AIUI the presumption is public access to open court in criminal matters.

    The sunlight remark is simply inane. My Clue-O-Meter is reading about 2.3 charos of cluelessness right now (normal range is around a few millicharos). Sunlight as disinfectant applies to government actions and those responsible, not to private citizens (like a witness against the mob). Government employees with responsible positions, with some reasonable exceptions, should not be shielded by a cloak of anonymity. High level Administration employees must be accountable for their behavior before, during, and for a reasonable period after Federal employment. Anonymous people are unaccountable people. If they can't handle this, don't take the job. Period, end of story.

  8. I think it is obvious that this case involves a much greater-than-usual danger for defense lawyers. Most cases do not have this level of publicity and this level of heated anger from a swath of the public. I'm glad these guys stood up, and I wish more people would defend the honor of defense lawyers in more contexts, who are so often unairly impugned.

  9. Why are these guys heros? I don't get it. It wasn't as if the detainees weren't already provided with counsel and legal protection. These guys went in to win extra protections, during a war, for the enemies of our country who plot the death of our soldiers and American civilians. And these lawyers, who take jobs with the DOJ, get in a snit if someone identifies them by name?

    Please. If some lawyers represented, for free, the Fred Phelps' crowd, and helped them win new legal rights, I think we would be justified in requiring the DOJ to tell us their names once in public service. Lawyers aren't some magical beings with pure impartial souls. They are humans, with prejudices and blind spots, and I think we would be justified in concluding that these people might have sympathies that would render their professional judgement suspect. At the very least, we ought to be able to see if this is the case. If the lawyers don't want this scrutiny, then don't take a job advising our DOJ.

    But really, I hope the Obama administration goes to the mat to keep these lawyers in place, and points out how they are winning new legal rights for our enemies, and doing it for free while our troops are in the field. If you believe in coddling our enemies and harassing our military, be bold and open about it. Remind everyone that enemy combatants really deserve the finest legal minds to provide them with novel legal rights while Americans who fight them require investigation and prosecution for new war crimes. That's the essence of Progressive Patriotism, right?

  10. a cloak of anonymity? Good lord, they are not anonymous, there simply is no good reason for people to want to know their names. Tell me why in the world it is so all important for you to know their name. You don't seem to care about the important issues, such as how they are handling the case, or the progress of the cases themselves, you simply want to know their name because....

    "Anonymous people are unaccountable people" is absolute and utter horseshit. 99.99% of Americans are anonymous and nearly all of them are accountable to their bosses, families, etc. someone. If any of these lawyers act in a fashion that is derelict in their duties, or if they commit an illegal act sure, name them, disbar them, etc. I am not saying the cases should be kept secret, what I am saying is that there is no reason for you to want their names plastered all over the internet.
    Do you know the name of your Postman, or the guy who repairs the utility pole outside of your house? Do you care? If they don't do their job you would but until then you don't.

    The thing that gets me most is not the wanting to know the names, but the reasons why. It is to slander and defame. We have seen the despicable acts committed by Tin eared Lizzy, labelling these Lawyers the Al Qaeda 7.

    You are really, really on thin ice if you think this is justifiable.


  11. Darn, you bent the needle on my Clue-O-Meter, and it had been reading low lately! Well, I'd been wanting to get one of the fancier new digital models with the Obama scale setting (it reads in kilocharos), so off to Amazon.