All criminal defendants have the right to counsel, but not all lawyers have the right to be hired by the U.S. government. DOJ lawyers represent the United States, and lawyers who have chosen to represent enemy combatants -- even if they do so solely to challenge a point of law -- should, at the very least, not be at the top of the hiring list. Such representation might not be an automatic disqualifier in every single case, depending on the circumstances, but how is it that not one, or even two, Guantanamo attorneys ended up at DOJ, but nine? This suggests a pattern and practice by the attorney general that is highly disturbing.
We'd have a right to question what the attorney general was thinking even if the lawyers in question were defending common criminals. But it's important to remember here that the Guantanamo detainees are combatants who've been picked up on the battlefields of the War on Terror. Granted, those battlefields are less geographically defined by front lines than in a traditional war. But the individuals involved are for the most part soldiers nonetheless. How is it that Holder didn't recognize the inherent conflicts in hiring attorneys who had defended these combatants against the United States to now zealously defend the United States against them and their compatriots?
Cheney and her group are asking an important question. Whose values does the Obama Justice Department represent? There is nothing sinister in challenging the attorney general to explain his choices -- and if the media weren't so blinded by their own biases, they'd have broken the story before Liz Cheney did.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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