Byron York’s been writing about this lately. There are nine lawyers now employed at the DOJ who helped defend Gitmo detainees but Holder will only release the names of two of them, leaving Congress in the dark about potential conflicts of interest. That’s ostensibly the target of this new spot from Liz Cheney’s outfit, Keep America Safe, but they end up going further than York or even the GOP has. Here’s York:
As the GOP sees it, there are two issues involved. The first is the nature of the Justice Department lawyers’ work on behalf of detainees. Republicans aren’t questioning whether terrorist detainees are entitled to attorneys; the courts have said they are, so they have attorneys. The question is whether those very lawyers should then turn around and handle detainee issues for the Justice Department.
Private lawyers can choose to take or not take cases. Sometimes they make their decisions based on money, sometimes on principle, sometimes because they are sympathetic to the accused. The lawyers who worked with the terrorist detainees chose to represent people who are making war on the United States. That’s certainly their right, but it’s entirely reasonable to ask whether they should now be working on detainee issues at the Justice Department.
Conflicts of interest are perfectly fair game for inquiry, but as you’ll see, the clip isn’t as broad-minded as York is in its treatment of possible motives for representing detainees. In fact, Morris Davis, who used to be chief prosecutor at Gitmo before resigning over his objections to waterboarding and the commission system generally, went ballistic over it:
“This is the typically regressive fear tactic that you expect from anybody named Cheney,” said Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at the Bush era military commissions, who has been a critic of the commission system…
Neal Katyal, who Davis faced off with in the Hamdan case, “was a very talented and dedicated attorney – he ws the perfect choice for [his position as deputy Solicitor General,” said Davis. “To try to impugn his character or iimply he’s part of the ‘Al Qaeda Nine’ or whatever is just outrageous.”
“Back in the 18th century after the Boston Massacre, we provided a zealous defense [to British soldiers], and a lot of people there have the same view,” he siad.
Katyal isn’t part of the “Al Qaeda 7” referenced in the clip because he’s been named by Holder, but the implication clearly is that the ones who haven’t are being protected because they’re jihadist sympathizers. That’s … quite a charge. In fact, since we don’t know who they are, we don’t know if their clients were Al Qaeda or Taliban or some sort of loosely affiliated or unaffiliated jihadi snagged on the battlefield. So what’s with the “Al Qaeda 7” bit?
None of this is an argument for Holder not to disclose the names — if he’s willing to own up on Katyal, he should disclose the rest to put public suspicions at ease — but I’d prefer to apply pressure to the feds without kinda sorta hinting that they’re in cahoots with Bin Laden. And yeah, no need to tell me in the comments that I’m a Chamberlain-esque RINO. I know.