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The 'al-Qaeda seven' and selective McCarthyism

Posted on March 08, 2010 by Marc Thiessen

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would -- and rightly so.

Yet 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.

Americans have a right to this information. One lawyer in the National Security Division of Holder's Justice Department, Jennifer Daskal, has written that any terrorist not charged with a crime "should be released from Guantanamo's system of indefinite detention" even though "at least some of these men may ... join the battlefield to fight U.S. soldiers and our allies another day." Should a lawyer who advocates setting terrorists free, knowing they may go on to kill Americans, have any role in setting U.S. detention policy? My hunch is that most Americans would say no.

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