Skip to comments.Eric Holder stonewalls Congress on terror lawyers
Posted on 02/23/2010 1:04:48 PM PST by iowamark
A number of lawyers who work on terrorist issues at the Justice Department represented terrorist detainees before joining the Obama administration. At a hearing three months ago, Sen. Charles Grassley raised the possibility of a conflict with Attorney General Eric Holder.
Grassley, a senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, posed three simple questions: Who are they, who did they represent, and what are their duties at the Justice Department today?
At the time, Grassley knew from press reports that two high-ranking department officials now working on detainee issues had previously worked for detainees: Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal once represented Osama bin Laden's driver, and Jennifer Daskal, an official in the National Security Division, worked on behalf of detainees at the liberal organization Human Rights Watch.
"This prior representation, I think, creates a conflict of interest problem for these individuals," Grassley said, asking Holder to supply the names of all political appointees who had represented or advocated for detainees, the cases they worked on, and their terror-related responsibilities in the Justice Department.
Holder at first blew Grassley off, but later said he would look into it. Later, all GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee joined in Grassley's request. But November passed with no answer from Holder. Then December went by, with no answer. Then January.
Finally, last week, Grassley and his colleagues got a response -- they wouldn't really call it an answer -- from the attorney general. Holder told Grassley that at least nine department officials formerly represented detainees. (It is "at least" because Holder conceded that he did not make a complete survey of DOJ's political appointees.) Holder confirmed that Katyal and Daskal worked on detainee issues -- something Grassley already knew -- but did not reveal the names of the other department officials involved. He did say that they are allowed to work on detainee issues.
Holder also assured Grassley that "all department appointees understand that their client is the United States."
Holder did not give a reason for withholding information. Republicans reading the letter sensed an underlying tone of dismissiveness; they felt Holder was telling Grassley what he could do with his questions.
Chances are, Grassley will keep asking them. 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.
The department's defenders might say the situation is no different from a lawyer who worked for a corporation joining the department to work on matters affecting big business. But critics say the terrorist detainees are in a special category of client because they are potential threats to the nation's security.
The second issue is whether lawmakers are entitled to know who is handling detainee issues in the Justice Department. If there are serious questions about the independence of those who make policy, Republicans on the Senate committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Justice Department, feel strongly that they should know about it. (Majority Democrats, who control the committee, have not been as curious.)
Some of the department's critics see things this way: There are lawyers who specialize in defending organized crime figures. That's fine; mafia dons have a right to legal representation. But should the attorney general hire a bunch of those lawyers to staff the department's organized crime section? And if he does, shouldn't we know about it?
It's hard to argue that we shouldn't. And it's especially hard to argue that we shouldn't when the issues involved are terrorism and national security.
(Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on www.ExaminerPolitics.com ExaminerPolitics.com.)
It would be interesting to know if the lawyers represented these terrorists pro bono.
What a great point...how can Holder even retain his job with this type of conflict? It is amazing that a true revolt hasn’t happened yet.
Damn straight we have a right to know.
Are there any FReepers out there that are naive enough to still think KSM will be found guilty?
Plea deal. . .
For all the explaining as to 'why' our Criminal Courts can handle this; the question seldom asked; is 'why should they'?
How about asking Obama et al and often; why it is they believe Military Court NOT the right venue for these terrorists? As Commander-in-Chief; why would Obama NOT go there. (Why do they attack everything about GW; but use him as reason for doing this?) Does Obama trust our Military - or not?
Personally, think the explanation for this Administation following this, and every other Islam/Muslim disposed; jihadist-yielding MO; is that it was simply in his contract; and not the one he signed, on America's behalf.
Against the 'ONE' - or against his people - or both?/sigh/
We are screwed, really. . .(though, the whisper campaign has Rahm OUT; but seeing is believing; and with Obama, even that is not enough. . .)
Thank you Byron York.
I vote that from now on, we refer to Eric Holder as Stonewall Holder.
Great. Our top law enforcement official is one of the most criminal POS’s on the face of the earth right now.