Republican Lawyers Criticize Cheney/Kristol Smear Campaign

Several prominent Republican lawyers are speaking up against the efforts by Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol to smear attorneys who previously represented Guantanamo detainees:

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.

“We consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications,” wrote the 19 lawyers whose names were attached to the statement as of early Monday.

The statement cited John Adams’s defense of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre to argue that “zealous representation of unpopular clients” is an important American tradition.

The attacks on the lawyers “undermine the Justice system more broadly,” they wrote, by “delegitimizing” any system in which accused terrorists have lawyers, whether civilian courts of military tribunals.

The letter’s signers include some of the top officials of a Bush Justice Department that wrestled at length with the legal questions surrounding terrorist detentions.

(…)

The signers include former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, John Ashcroft’s No. 2, and Peter Keisler, who served as acting attorney general during President Bush’s second term. They also include several lawyers who dealt directly with detainee policy: Matthew Waxman and Charles “Cully” Stimson, who each served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs; Daniel Dell’Orto, who was acting general counsel for the Department of Defense; and Bradford Berenson, a prominent Washington lawyer who worked on the issues as an associate White House counsel during President Bush’s first term.

Good for them.


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