Keep America Safe, the conservative group headed by Liz Cheney, has put out a controversial new ad questioning the integrity of Department of Justice lawyers tasked with defending Guantanamo detainees. The ad calls these lawyers the "Al Qaeda Seven," although the detainees they defended are not necessarily associated with al-Qaeda. The appointment of lawyers for detainees has been standard practice since the Bush administration. Cheney's ad has aroused intense anger among legal experts and pundits.
- The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen: "I realize that right-wing political hacks are going to engage in some pretty loathsome tactics from time to time. But the crusade against these Justice Department officials obliterates any lines of decency or modern norms, and should permanently discredit the cheap and tasteless attackers."
- Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller: "[One of the hallmarks of] our nation's legal system is that attorneys provide faithful representation to all sorts of clients. As John Roberts said at his confirmation hearings, it is wrong to identify lawyers with the client or the views the lawyer advances for the client, and our history is replete with such examples, from John Adams representing British soldiers to Department of Defense JAG lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees."
- Salon's Glenn Greenwald: "It's the type of McCarthyite act which would, if we had any minimal standards in our political culture, result in the shunning of Cheney and Kristol by all decent people [...] that disgusting duo is also smearing countless civilian lawyers whose work since 9/11 has been nothing short of heroic."
- Retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, former lead military commissions prosecutor: "It is absolutely outrageous for the Cheney-Grassley crowd to try to tar and feather [some of the attorneys] and insinuate they are al-Qaeda supporters. You don't hear anyone refer to John Adams as a turncoat for representing the Brits in the Boston Massacre trial."
- TalkingPointsMemo's Justin Elliott: "In Liz Cheney's worldview, Rudy Giuliani is a disloyal al Qaeda sympathizer." Why? A top lawyer at Giuliani's firm is working on two of the cases that Cheney's group is so upset about.
- The Atlantic's Chris Bodenner: "Not only does she presume that all suspected terrorists are guilty before due process, but she ignores the reality that only a fraction of the detainees held at Gitmo were even accused of Al-Qaeda ties in the first place."
- The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman: Senator Chuck Grassley, who has joined Cheney's campaign, "knows exactly what he's doing. He's taking one of the strengths of the American justice system -- the fact that everyone is entitled to legal representation -- and implying that it's unseemly. It's a testament to the weakness of his character that he will never forthrightly accuse these attorneys of what he's implying -- sympathy with accused terrorists -- in a way that they could refute. What a pathetic excuse for a man."
- People For the American Way President Michael Keegan: "Joseph McCarthy himself couldn't have done a better job of using fear and insinuations to smear his political enemies. Most Americans understand that McCarthyism was a shameful chapter in American history, but the Cheney wing of the Republican Party seems to have embraced Senator McCarthy's utter lack of shame."
- Science blogger Ed Brayton: "Those men fought for a bare minimum of legal rights for the detainees at Gitmo, something even the Supreme Court agrees it is our responsibility to give them both under the Constitution and our treaty obligations. And your pathetic demagoguery to paint them as traitors only reflects on the intrinsically un-American nature of your position."
- The American Prospect's Adam Serwer: This is "The New McCarthyism"
The attorneys who challenged the Bush administration's national-security policies saw themselves as fulfilling their legal obligations by fighting an unconstitutional power grab. At heart, this was a disagreement over process: Should people accused of terrorism be afforded the same human rights and due process protections as anyone else in American custody? But rather than portray the dispute as a conflict over what is and isn't within constitutional bounds, conservatives argue that anyone who opposed the Bush administration's policies is a traitor set to undermine America's safety from within the Justice Department.