Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Transparency, Huh?

Mark Thiessen, the Washington Post‘s newest columnist, defends Liz Cheney’s witch-hunt of the Justice Department.

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.


Yet for raising questions, Cheney and the Republican senators have been vilified. Former Clinton Justice Department official Walter Dellinger decried the “shameful” personal attacks on “these fine lawyers,” while numerous commentators leveled charges of “McCarthyism.”

This is McCarthyism in and of itself. In his opening sentence, Mr. Thiessen jumps to the conclusion that the attorneys defending the suspects are sympathetic to their clients’ beliefs by comparing them to “mob lawyers” in charge of prosecuting mob cases. He carries on, citing an investigation by Fox News as his source of information that these attorneys are somehow unpatriotic, and compares the situation to the attacks when “fine lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Jim Haynes, Steve Bradbury and others came under vicious personal attack” during the Bush administration. In other words, the men who basically said that the president has the power to do whatever he wants to get information out of suspects, up to and including torture and killing, were vilified for their positions. Aside from the fact that the two situations are in no way comparable, the attorneys defending the al-Qaeda suspects were doing what lawyers do and what the Constitution requires, whereas John Yoo and Jay Bybee were clearly skating out onto thin ice, both legally and morally. And to lump David Addington, the man who helped out Valerie Plame, in with them is, to be generous, a stretch of right-wing logic that doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Since Mr. Thiessen’s previous employment was as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, it’s pretty clear that his acquaintance with the canon of ethics for lawyers and the interpretation of the rule of law is, to say the least, problematic.

Mr. Thiessen is also ignoring the fact that a slew of former Bush administration lawyers and the Hero of the Clinton Impeachment, Kenneth Starr, think it is McCarthyism.

“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 one thing that’s clear in Ms. Cheney’s crusade and Mr. Thiessen’s enabling of it is that neither of them give a flying rat’s ass about “transparency” or the “right to know.” It’s a malicious attempt to tear down the Department of Justice for political gain. It’s nothing new for the Cheneys, and Mr. Thiessen is just another one of their Wormtongues.