Andrew C. McCarthy rebuts misleading editorial claims that certain attorneys now employed by the Department of Justice were “only doing their job” and following the conventional ethical obligations of the Bar in pursuing various kinds of innovative litigation on behalf of War on Terror detainees.
The fictional premise of these wayward complaints is that the Justice Department’s al Qaeda lawyers stand in the same shoes as criminal-defense lawyers. The latter must represent even unsavory characters because the Constitution guarantees counsel to those charged with crimes.
To the contrary, the Justice Department’s al Qaeda lawyers were volunteers, just as Mr. Holder volunteered in the Heller case. Unlike the British soldiers represented by John Adams, the Gitmo detainees are not entitled to counsel. They are not criminal defendants. They are plaintiffs in offensive lawsuits, filed under the rubric of habeas corpus, challenging their detention as war prisoners. The nation is at war, and the detainees are unprivileged alien enemy combatants. By contrast, the United States was not at war with England at the time of the Boston Massacre, and the British soldiers were lawful police, not nonuniformed terrorists.
There is no right to counsel in habeas corpus cases. Thousands of American inmates must represent themselves in such suitsâ€”there is no parade of white-shoe law firms at their beck and call. Until 2004, moreover, enemy prisoners were not permitted to challenge their detention at all. The Supreme Court rejected such claims in the 1950 Eisentrager case, precisely because they damage the national war effort. Yes, left-leaning lawyers have convinced the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc to ignore precedent and permit Gitmo habeas petitions. That neither makes these suits less damaging, nor endows the enemy with a right to counsel.
Advocating for the enemy is a modern anomaly, not a proud tradition. Defense lawyers representing accused criminals perform a constitutionally required function. Not so the Department of Justice’s Gitmo volunteers. They represented al Qaeda operatives because they wanted to, not because they had to. The suggestion that they served a vital constitutional function is self-adulating myth. Their motive was to move the law in a particular direction.
Ironically, a number of Republican and conservative lawyers have written editorials and signed letters expressing the same specious analysis that equates the proactive defense of the enemy by the members of the treasonous community of fashion with the conventional acceptance of an assigned duty to provide representation to an unpopular or controversial client. You do not find Mr. Katyal, Mr. Holder, or certain representatives of Shearman & Sterling volunteering to defend the marines charged with murder or the Navy seals who gave the leader of a mob that murdered and mutilated Americans a fat lip.
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, I suppose, deserve some special appreciation for their highmindedness and inclination to bend over backward in order to refrain from pointing fingers at members of their own profession in the opposing camp, but their insistence on placing the best interpretation on the motives of opponents seems more than a little naive in a world in which the democrat party left endeavors to criminalize policy differences as frequently as possible.
There is the difference between Republicans and democrats, between the American right and the American left in a nutshell. Mukasey and Olson are found hastening to defend Neal Katyal’s efforts to utilize American law for the benefit of those making war against it and the Geneva Convention to protect illegal combatants who routinely flout it, while the left is enthusiastically trying to claim that Bush Administration attorneys deserve prosecution for violations of international law as well as sanctions for professional misconduct.
What we have here is the successful application by the left of Saul Alinsky’s radical technique of “making your opponent obey his own rules” on two levels. Leftwing attorneys have successfully compelled the United States government to accord constitutional protections and the privileges of domestic legal process to armed enemies captured overseas and effectively contrived to have the Supreme Court enforce Article 75 of Protocol I (1977) of the Geneva Convention which the United States never signed. Meanwhile, the left accuses and makes strong efforts to punish Republican attorneys for legal and ethical violations on the basis of ultra-partisan and highly strained interpretations. Yet, prominent Republican legal figures shrink from criticizing, even from accurately identifying, enthusiastic advocacy on behalf of the enemy in time of war as what it really is.