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Mar. 3 2010 - 6:21 pm | 748 views | 6 recommendations | 10 comments

Liz Cheney’s ‘Al-Qaeda seven’ revealed

US Vice President Dick Cheney (R), daughter Li...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Yesterday, this page posted a piece on the disturbing and despicable tactics being employed by Liz Cheney’s ‘Keep America Safe’ gang in seeking the names of seven Justice Department attorneys accused by the organization – and others – of aiding terrorist detainees.

Today, the Justice Department  released the names. Let’s take a look at who they are and what they have done that has caused Ms. Cheney and her ilk to impugn these government employees by calling them “The Al-Qaeda Seven“.

Jonathan Cedarbaum and Eric Columbus – Cedarbaum is currently an attorney in the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel while Columbus serves as senior counsel in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Both men, while attorneys at the white shoe law firm, WillmerHale, participated in providing a legal defense to six Bosnian-Algerian detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. In that matter, these men were part of the team that brought Boumediene v. Bush before the Supreme Court in the effort to establish the terrorist detainees had the right to challenge their incarceration via a writ of habeus corpus. Cedarbaum, Columbus and their co-counsel won the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Karl Thompson – Also an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel, Thompson, while working at the ultra-white shoe firm of O’Melveny & Myers, was one of seven attorneys to represent Canadian Omar Khadr, the Canadian born citizen who was captured in Afghanistan when 16 years old and remains at Guantanamo Bay.

Joseph Guerra – Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General, Guerra, while an attorney at uber-white shoe firm, Sidley Austin, representing three civil liberties groups, including the conservative Rutherford Institute, on whose behalf he filed a brief on behalf of Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen held in Guantanamo. The brief urged the Supreme Court to hear Padilla’s  case as to why he should be tried in a civilian court rather than a military tribunal. The case became moot when the Bush Administration voluntarily decided to try Padilla in a civilian court.

Tali Farhadian – An attorney in the Office of the Attorney General, while working at Debevoise & Plimpton, Farhadian filed an amicus brief (friend of the court) with the U.S. Court of Appeals, in support of their hearing the case of Ali al-Marri, an alleged enemy combatant who was being held on U.S. soil rather than Guantanamo.

Beth Brinkmann - Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ Civil Division, while a partner with the firm Morrison & Foerster, helped write two Supreme Court legal briefs involving issues relating to terrorist detainees.

Tony West – Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ Civil Division, West provided a defense for famous American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, while employed as an attorney at Morrison & Forrester. Note that this was no secret and was a matter of some controversy when his nomination to his current position was sent to the Senate for confirmation. While West’s confirmation was delayed a few months, he was ultimately confirmed, with full knowledge on the part of the Senate, in April, 2009.

I’ve already written about the two Justice Department attorneys whose names were previously disclosed.

There are few things that jump out as we review the list. For starters, each and every attorney in question provided their legal assistance while working at the nation’s largest and best-known law firms. Having worked in this environment, I can tell you for a certainty that matters such as this are not taken on without the full approval of the managing board of the firm. I can also tell you that each and every one of these firms has clients that, by no stretch of the imagination, would be identified as being ‘okay’ with their law firm sympathizing with terrorists.

So, why did these attorneys get involved? Because the nation’s best lawyers and law firms will always be attracted to the most interesting and important legal issues of our time. And these issues were –and are- huge.

Since writing my article on this yesterday, I’ve received some comments indicating that the purpose of Cheney’s advertisement was to get the names of these lawyers so that a determination could be made as to whether or not they belong in the Justice Department. Nonsense. She could have done that without impugning these people by calling them terrorist sympathizers and “The Al-Qaeda Seven” without even knowing their identities.

I can hear my more conservative anti-Obama Administration friends thinking that nothing I’ve written here necessarily convinces them that people who have been involved defending terrorists should be working at the Department of Justice. Indeed, The Weekly Standard has even accused me of missing the point of Cheney’s advertisement in rising to her defense.

Those of you who believe that the Obama DOJ is harboring terrorist sympathizers – and that includes The Weekly Standard- might want to read the following information provided courtesy of Fox News. It turns out that the Obama DOJ is not the first to employee attorneys who fit this bill – something Ms. Cheney and friends didn’t bother to learn before launching their outrageous attack -

Pratik Shah, an assistant to the Solicitor General hired by the Bush Administration, was part of the WilmerHale team that put together arguments for the Boumediene v. Bush case. Trisha Anderson, an adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel who was also hired by the Bush Administration, was previously an attorney at Attorney General Eric Holder’s former firm, Covington & Burling, where she helped represent 13 Yemeni detainees. Varda Hussain, an attorney hired in 2008 with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was an associate with the Washington-based firm Venable when she helped represent three Egyptians being held at Guantanamo Bay. ”Varda has spent over 500 hours in the past year fighting to bring due process to our clients,” a firm newsletter said in 2006.

Via Fox News

Despite this information, Michelle Malkin, who has previous labeled the current crop of DOJ attorneys who worked on detainee cases as ‘jihadist’, made a lame attempt to put a positive spin on the Fox report, despite the fact that Fox News was pouring cold water all over the whole jihadist lawyer thing. Apparently, Michelle can’t be bothered with confusing a good trashing with the truth – even when that truth is reported by her own allies. Somehow, attorneys who work for the Bush Administration, having previously represented terrorist detainees, are patriotic Americans. Attorneys in the same shoes working for the Obama Administration are a part of Eric Holder’s “national security cover-up.”

The bottom line here is that, no matter who you are or what ideology you subscribe to, failing to condemn Cheney, Bill Kristol and the rest of the folks at Keep America Safe, not to mention Michelle Malkin and others of her ilk, is simply an exercise in failing to understand American principles and values. And that condemnation should be loud and it should be clear.

We don’t do McCarthyism anymore and anyone who would stand up for an individual or organization looking to bring back one of the most horrendous chapters of American history not only doesn’t get it but is guilty of the most egregious disregard and denial of American ideals and values.


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  1. collapse expand

    Thanks for being one of the voices to bring clarity to this situation. I am so sick of ideologues at either end of the spectrum who wouldn’t know confirmation bias if it bit them on the ass.

    We need more people willing to stand up and say enough is enough. I can disagree without disrespecting, and I can be self-aware enough to know that there are things I want to believe, and those are things I most need to verify. Otherwise, I’m prone to marinating in a monoculture that relieves me of the responsibility of having to think critically at the cost of personal, community, and country-wide stagnation.

  2. collapse expand

    Who the hell is liz cheney and what does she do?

  3. collapse expand

    Why would anyone listen to anything Liz Cheney has to say? Her entire claim to fame is being someone’s daughter, period. She is about as credible as Paris Hilton.

  4. collapse expand

    I happened to flip past Hannity either last night or the night before and Krauthammer was on blathering about this in his typical snobbishly condescending way so it’s most assuredly gaining traction with people.

  5. collapse expand

    Thanks to one of your earlier posts I think I actually understand this so let me see if I can parrot some of this back to you and get it right.

    The Constitution states that only Congress can declare our nation to be at war and give The Executive the tools of war. The previous administration used the term “war on terror,” but constitutionally speaking that declaration on the part of the executive is meaningless, only congress can do that because the founders wanted a check against the executive’s power for obvious reasons.

    So The Executive and the DOJ is operating in this nice juicy grey area (for lawyers) because we obviously have to protect the nation from terrorists, but we don’t want to completely compromise the rule of law we’ve developed. And while it’s a grey area, precedents have been establish that say we try all persons in our courts and extend to them rights under our justice system because its transparent and impartial to the wants of the Executive and Legislative branches. Moreover, as a society, our principals cause us to err on the side of justice rather than wants of any interested party.

    So far so good I think. Okay, so the previous administration tried to prosecute this war on terror as best it could without a congressional declaration of war with mixed success. It managed to compromise it obligations under international law and cast America as nation that openly advocates torture, but the current administration ended that. It also attempted to go against precedent and try terrorists as enemy combatants in military courts. This had the effect of elevating terrorists and in some cases common thugs to the level of soldier, while simultaneously being unsuccessful for the most part. In other words, they attempted to swing the pendulum over far enough to let the executive fully prosecute a war without the congressional checks and balances or any involvement by the Judiciary.

    In contrast, the current administration is prosecuting these people as criminals inline with precedents established long before the previous administration, swinging the pendulum back toward the environment envisioned by the constitution. In other words, the power of the executive to prosecute this pseudo war on terrorists is at least checked by the Judiciary as it processes the people we capture.

    So along comes Liz Cheney who intends to spin it like this: The previous administration was patriotic because they protected us by expanding The Executive’s power to the point of bending the rule of law in contempt of both Congress and the Judiciary – because they’re apparently not strong enough. Meanwhile, the current administration, working in the same grey area, are terrorist sympathizer’s because they have more regard for our rule of law?

    Liz Cheney is unpatriotic and has absolutely no regard for our republic. While I can understand her passion, there is simply no excuse for this. Our nation is built on principals and laws and if she insists on casting Americans as terrorist sympathizers just because they care more about the republic and how it operates than she does, then she needs to called out as unpatriotic in the extreme.

    So Rick, correct me if I’m wrong and keep refining and pounding on this issue of war and justice, because you bring clarity to this point – When the current administration is killing more terrorists and simultaneously working within the rule of law, it shows we don’t have to compromise our republic in order to protect it. In fact, it is about time we recognize what Cheney’s rhetoric really is, a threat to our republic, nothing less.

    • collapse expand

      I’d say you definitely ‘get it’!
      Take a look at my post I’ve put up today. I really do see organizations like Cheney’s Keep America Safe as a serious danger. I don’t necessarily believe that they intend a bad result – but a terrible result is what we get if we permit these groups to set aside the American system because they are frightened by terrorist attacks. We are all frightened by terrorist attacks, however there is a larger principle involved than simply trying to limit the body count. It’s incredibly important that Americans realize this and stand up to groups like Keep America Safe, no matter what their ideological beliefs.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    Rick, you are being totally disingenuous. To begin with Eric Holder started this kerfuffle by refusing to disclose the names of the seven attorneys. I didn’t see you objecting to that despicable decision. What was he trying to hide? If he had done so there would be no Al Qaeda Seven ad. Now he has disclosed their names.
    Secondly, Liz Cheney has never objected to terrorists getting due process or good representation, so your insinuations that some American principles were violated is clearly false.
    We have a right to know who is advising Eric Holder, who has a long standing record of sympathising with terrorists going back to his role in the pardons of the FARQ terrorists years ago to his most decision to Mirandize Abdulmuttalab and try him in a US criminal court and not a military tribunal.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about the Shoe Bomber Richard Reid, but that was soon after 9/11 when the country was still trying to figure out whether we were under full scale attack, after the feckless Clinton administration had ignored terrorist attacks on US interests throughout the 90’s.
    By the way, did any of the prestigious lawfirms lining up to defend the Al Qaeda terrorists pro bono volunteer to defend the killer of Dr. Tiller, or any of the other anti-abortion nuts? Just asking.

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    I am an attorney in Southern California, and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. To that end, I am active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Based in beautiful Santa Monica, California, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be a contributing editor to True/Slant. I've recently finished a book designed to make the health care debate understandable to the average reader, and expect it to be out in the next five months or earlier. In my 'spare time', I continue to write for television and, occasionally, for comic books.

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