For the past several months, much to the delight of the right wing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been leading an aggressive effort to impugn the motives of Obama appointees in the Department of Justice, whom he alleges are embroiled in a “conflict of interest” because they at one point advocated that Guantanamo detainees be tried according to the rule of law. Grassley has been on a vengeful witch-hunt to identify the names of DoJ lawyers who have “either represented Guantanamo detainees or worked for groups who advocated for them,” with the likely intention of purging them.
Last month, the Justice Department acknowledged to Grassley that at least nine appointees in the agency had previously advocated for the rule of law with respect to detainee treatment in Guantanamo, but Attorney General Eric Holder refused to disclose the names of these lawyers. Grassley dismissed the DoJ response as “bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo” and demanded to know the identities of those appointees.
Employing “McCarthyite tactics,” the crack investigative squad at the Washington Times has undertaken the task of identifying each of the lawyers. Liz Cheney’s neoconservative outfit Keep America Safe has released an ad today ominously warning of the anonymous “al Qaeda seven” in the Justice Department:
In a coordinated assault, a plethora of other right wing voices are issuing similarly irresponsible charges:
— The American Spectator escalates the number of potential terrorist “abettors” in the Department of Justice from 9 to “as many as 13 to 16.”
— David Davenport, a researcher at the conservative Hoover Institution, wrote in an editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Department of Justice is supposed to be prosecuting terrorists, not coddling them.”
— The Investor’s Business Daily headlines its editorial: “DOJ: Department of Jihad?” “Just whose side are they on?” IBD asks.
— “It’s like they’re bringing al Qaeda lawyers inside the Department of Justice,” said Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother on 9/11 and a board member of Liz Cheney’s group Keep America Safe.
Many on the right have conveniently neglected to mention that the United States Supreme Court sided with the Obama attorneys. One of the targeted attorneys is Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, the lawyer who won Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the case that struck down the Bush administration’s military commissions system. Another target, Justice Department lawyer Jennifer Daskal, had signed her name to an amicus brief in the Boumediene v. Bush case arguing that Gitmo detainees be accorded habeas corpus rights to challenge their convictions. The Supreme Court sided with Daskal’s position.
So the bottom line is that, having been on the losing side of these Supreme Court decisions, the right wing has decided to continue its vindictive fight by smearing the lawyers who prevailed in their advocacy for the rule of law.