NYT: Bush Official Defends Lawyers Under Attack for Detainee Work

In a March 4 New York Times article, Charlie Savage reported that former Bush administration official Peter D. Keisler, “who led the Bush administration's courtroom defense against lawsuits filed by Guantanamo detainees is denouncing attacks on Obama administration appointees who previously helped such prisoners challenge their indefinite detention without trial.” From the article:

Peter D. Keisler, who was assistant attorney general for the civil division in the Bush administration, said in an interview that it was “wrong” to attack lawyers who volunteered to help such lawsuits before joining the Justice Department.

“There is a longstanding and very honorable tradition of lawyers representing unpopular or controversial clients,” Mr. Keisler said. “The fact that someone has acted within that tradition, as many lawyers, civilian and military, have done with respect to people who are accused of terrorism - that should never be a basis for suggesting that they are unfit in any way to serve in the Department of Justice.”

Mr. Keisler spoke out one day after the Justice Department confirmed a Fox News report naming nine political appointees who had worked on detainee litigation before to joining the government. The department had declined to identify seven of those officials in response to a request by congressional Republicans.

In recent days, conservative media figures have attacked President Obama and the DOJ for employing lawyers who previously represented terror suspects or supported their legal arguments in their private practices. However, the Bush DOJ also hired lawyers who represented terror suspects.