Al Qaeda Defense Atty. No. 3 At Obama DOJ (total nine or 10 now)
In a scary development, a major Obama fundraiser who defended a convicted al Qaeda terrorist will become the third highest ranking official at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which, ironically, is charged with defending the interests of the United States.
Northern California lawyer Tony West has been named Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, making him the No. 3 guy at the agency.
In 2009 West, who helped Obama raise tens of millions of dollars as finance co-chairman of his first presidential campaign, was appointed to help run the DOJ’s civil division which represents the government, Congress and presidential cabinet officers and handles cases dealing with significant policy issues.
In a statement announcing the promotion this week, Attorney General Eric Holder says West has served the department with “professionalism, integrity and dedication.” Holder also mentions West’s work before coming to the DOJ a few years ago, including a stint as a Special Assistant Attorney General in California and a lengthier career at a large San Francisco law firm.
Conveniently omitted in the press release is that West represented convicted al Qaeda terrorist John Walker Lindh, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Lindh was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 while fighting against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance as a member of the Taliban army.
He actually pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban and carrying explosives while fighting U.S. troops in the region.
DOJ that Eric Holder is covering up?
A number of lawyers who work on terrorist issues at the Justice Department represented terrorist detainees before joining the Obama administration. The latest count of known terrorist sympathizers is 9, but there may actually be more. Eric Holder is stonewalling Congress as they try and find out the exact number, and names of these “people”. According to the Washington Examiner, 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?