Wash. Post's Thiessen takes attacks on DOJ lawyers -- which Post condemned -- to another level

Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

As Glenn Greenwald and Jamison Foser have pointed out, The Washington Post suggested that right-wing attacks on Department of Justice attorneys who have represented terror suspects are based on "ignorance," "fear," and "hysteria" and published an op-ed calling the attacks "shameful," even though Bill Kristol, one of the leading proponents of the smear, writes a regular column for the Post.

But Kristol is not alone.

Marc Thiessen, a weekly columnist for the Post has not only attacked the DOJ attorneys who represented terror suspects, but has also attacked "senior partners" at law firms in which other lawyers took on such cases for allowing "work on behalf of America's terrorist enemies" to continue.

From a chapter titled "Double Agents" in Thiessen's book, Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack:

Some argue that, with the exception of [Neal] Katyal, none of these lawyers directly represented terrorists, so they should not be held responsible for the actions of other lawyers in their firms. That might be true for a junior partner. But the fact is, [Department of Justice officials Eric] Holder, [Lanny] Breuer, [David] Ogden, [Thomas] Perrelli, and [Tony] West were all senior partners at their firms at the time when these firms were deciding whether or not to accept terrorist clients. They had the power to say no and stop this work on behalf of America's terrorist enemies. They chose not to do so.

I spoke to several partners at major law firms that have chosen not to represent terrorists. None wanted to criticize their competitors on the record, but all agreed that the work would not have gone forward without the approval of Holder and his colleagues. One attorney explained that law firms pride themselves on collegiality, and if one or more partners expressed opposition, that is sufficient to kill a pro bono project. He said the reason his firm does not represent terrorists is because partners like him spoke up and made clear they opposed the firm doing such work. If such opposition could stop this work at his firm, this lawyer says, Holder could have done the same at Covington. "Eric Holder's law firm did this with the full blessing and support of Eric Holder," he says. "He's responsible for it." [Pages 257-58]

At the end of the chapter, Thiessen claimed that the attorneys who took on the cases of terror "are aiding and abetting America's enemies," which is pretty close to the constitutional definition of treason -- providing "aid and comfort" to America's enemies:

The attorneys fighting these cases -- some intentionally, others unwittingly -- are practicing what has come to be called "lawfare." They are aiding and abetting America's enemies by filing lawsuits on their behalf, and turning U.S. courtrooms into a new battlefield in the war on terror. These lawsuits tie our government in knots and make it more difficult for our military and intelligence officials to defend our country from terrorist dangers. And they undermine America's moral authority by echoing the enemy's propaganda that America systematically abuses human rights. [Page 274]

Regarding the attacks against lawyers who represented terror suspects, the Post March 5 editorial stated:

It is important to remember that no less an authority than the Supreme Court ruled that those held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must be allowed to challenge their detentions in a U.S. court. It is exceedingly difficult to exercise that right meaningfully without the help of a lawyer. It is also worth remembering that the Bush administration wanted to try some Guantanamo detainees in military commissions -- a forum in which a defendant is guaranteed legal representation. Even so, it took courage for attorneys to stand up in the midst of understandable societal rage to protect the rights of those accused of terrorism. Advocates knew that ignorance and fear would too often cloud reason. They knew that this hysteria made their work on these cases all the more important. The video from Keep America Safe proves they were right.

The Post also published a March 5 op-ed by Walter Dellinger, former head of DOJ's office of legal counsel and former acting Solicitor General stating that "[t]he only word that can do justice to the personal attacks on these fine lawyers -- and on the integrity of our legal system -- is shameful. Shameful." From Dellinger's op-ed:

It never occurred to me on the day that Defense Department lawyer Rebecca Snyder and Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler of the Navy appeared in my law firm's offices to ask for our assistance in carrying out their duties as military defense lawyers that the young lawyer who worked with me on that matter would be publicly attacked for having done so. And yet this week that lawyer and eight other Justice Department attorneys have been attacked in a video released by a group called Keep America Safe (whose board members include William Kristol and Elizabeth Cheney) for having provided legal assistance to detainees before joining the department. The video questions their loyalty to the United States, asking: "DOJ: Department of Jihad?" and "Who are these government officials? ... Whose values do they share?"


That those in question would have their patriotism, loyalty and values attacked by reputable public figures such as Elizabeth Cheney and journalists such as Kristol is as depressing a public episode as I have witnessed in many years. What has become of our civic life in America? The only word that can do justice to the personal attacks on these fine lawyers -- and on the integrity of our legal system -- is shameful. Shameful.

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