Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Liz Cheneys Skewered View

Those of us fortunate not to be lawyers at least have some perception that it is their duty to provide legal counsel to people we consider scumbags.

With that thought in mind, I wonder what Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol were thinking when they produced an ad criticizing Attorney General Eric Holder for hiring at least nine attorneys who defended accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay prison.

Kristol, in his infamous cherubic face and innocent childlike demeanor, explained:

"The main issues in the debate have been whether Congress and the public are simply entitled to know who these lawyers are, and the question of whether former pro bono lawyers for terrorists should be working on detainee policy for the Justice Department."

The ad refers to the lawyers as the "al qaeda 7" and Holder's office as the "Department of Jihad." If Keep America Safe, which produced the ad, wanted to catch the public's attention, it certainly succeeded.

A growing list of 19 attorneys, some conservatives working for the George W. Bush administration, complained the Web ad was "shameful."

I am not gloating that Kristol and Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter, were in effect bitch slapped by their peers. Rather, I wanted to know from the deepest recesses of their bowels what they were out to prove.

I refused to take the easy road by repeating the garble espoused by Fox News stable of talking horses. I did discover someone named John Hawkins writing for Rightwing News. Quoth he:

Would you want a mob lawyer working at the DOJ? How about someone who specialized in getting rapists off the hook? How about Lynne Stewart, who represented Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and aided him in carrying out terrorist attacks? Are there any Lynne Stewart types working at the DOJ? Nobody knows and that's the point Liz Cheney is making.

Hawkins concludes:

Under Obama, people like John Yoo who worked to help protect America from attacks are the bad guys while lawyers who defended terrorists are hired and shielded at the DOJ. That tells you a lot about just how backwards the priorities of the Obama Administration are when it comes to the war on terror.

Sorry, Mr. Hawkns, I don't follow the same dots as you to determine the Obama administration is weak on terror because of seven attorneys out of -- What? Tens of thousands? -- in the Department of Justice.

Because of pressure from the news cycle producing mass hysteria, Holder did provide the names of the al qaeda 7 last week to Fox News.

Apparently the mastermind behind most of this is a chap named Marc Thiessen, author of "Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack" He is promoting the book with a series of op-ed articles, one of which drew the nation's attention in the Washington Post.

The book tour landed him a spot on "The Daily Show With John Stewart" Tuesday night and he got skewered. Here's an excerpt The Huffington Post wrote on the show:

Thiessen's basic argument is that you should consider the lawyers who represent detainees to be "al Qaeda lawyers," regardless if the detainees are innocent or guilty or if the truth reveals a lack of connection to al Qaeda. His response to the proud tradition of providing vigorous defense to unsympathetic defendants -- in the manner established by John Adams -- is to indulge in what Matt Yglesias calls "an epic hair-splitting gambit." And he continued to do the same hair-splitting in his insistence that the Gitmo detainees have not been "accused" of anything, so the attorneys who represent them are not performing a Constitutional duty -- rather, they are traitors.

In Thiessen's own words written for Wapo:

...Attorney General Eric Holder hired former al-Qaeda lawyers to serve in the Justice Department and resisted providing Congress this basic information. In November, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Holder a letter requesting that he identify officials who represented terrorists or worked for organizations advocating on their behalf, the cases and projects they worked on before coming to the Justice Department, the cases and projects they've worked on since joining the administration, and a list of officials who have recused themselves because of prior work on behalf of terrorist detainees.

Holder stonewalled for nearly three months. Finally, two weeks ago, he admitted that nine political appointees in the Justice Department had represented or advocated for terrorist detainees, but he failed to identify seven whose names were not publicly known or to directly answer other questions the senators posed. So Keep America Safe, a group headed by Liz Cheney, posted a Web ad demanding that Holder identify the "al-Qaeda seven," and a subsequent Fox News investigation unearthed the names. Only under this public pressure did the Justice Department confirm their identities -- but Holder still refuses to disclose their roles in detention policy.

...Yet for raising questions, Cheney and the Republican senators have been vilified. Former Clinton Justice Department official Walter Dellinger decried the "shameful" personal attacks on "these fine lawyers," while numerous commentators leveled charges of "McCarthyism."

Where was the moral outrage when fine lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Jim Haynes, Steve Bradbury and others came under vicious personal attack? Their critics did not demand simple transparency; they demanded heads. They called these individuals "war criminals" and sought to have them fired, disbarred, impeached and even jailed. Where were the defenders of the "al-Qaeda seven" when a Spanish judge tried to indict the "Bush six"? Philippe Sands, author of the "Torture Team," crowed: "This is the end of these people's professional reputations!" I don't recall anyone accusing him of "shameful" personal attacks.

The standard today seems to be that you can say or do anything when it comes to the Bush lawyers who defended America against the terrorists. But if you publish an Internet ad or ask legitimate questions about Obama administration lawyers who defended America's terrorist enemies, you are engaged in a McCarthyite witch hunt.
Among high-profile conservatives knocking down the Cheney-Kristol-Hawkins-Thiessen argument is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who I think said it best:

"I've been a military lawyer for almost 30 years, I represented people as a defense attorney in the military that were charged with some pretty horrific acts, and I gave them my all," said Graham. "This system of justice that we're so proud of in America requires the unpopular to have an advocate and every time a defense lawyer fights to make the government do their job, that defense lawyer has made us all safer."

This story seems to have legs and would hope Liz would stand up and apologize. Perish the thought. She's a Cheney, a chip off the old blockhead. Never back down is the backbone in her DNA. Fine. On this issue, she's wrong and her credibility sinks deeper into the political mud.

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