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Al-Qaeda seven were serving justice

Marc Thiessen argues today that Justice Department lawyers who worked on behalf of terrorism suspects in private practice were not "doing what John Adams did" in defending British soldiers incriminated in the Boston Massacre -- "representing accused criminals already in the judicial system." "Rather," he argues, "they have reached outside the judicial systems and dragged the terrorists in." These lawyers, Thiessen concludes, were not noble and their values are thus suspect and legitimately subject to examination.

Thiessen has it backwards. The Bush administration dragged suspected al-Qaeda operatives, some of them captured far from conventional battlefields, to Guantanamo to avoid the reach of the law. Thiessen argues that the Geneva Conventions and not the full-throated rights afforded under our federal justice system would suffice to process these prisoners. But let's not forget that the Bush administration resisted even this modest semblance of process; White House Counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales famously called the application of Geneva to unlawful enemy combatants "quaint."

Few people initially questioned the propriety of holding enemy combatants under the laws of war. And then years started slipping by as men who claimed innocence languished at the island prison. It's not as if American forces were capturing uniformed Nazi soldiers and simply holding them in Guantanamo until the end of hostilities. How is one to know that those turned over by bounty hunters in Pakistan or captured in a remote village in Bosnia are in fact enemy combatants and suspected terrorists? And how is one to judge in this unconventional war when hostilities have actually ceased? The possibility of indefinitely imprisoning an innocent person was never as real -- nor was the need for robust representation of those held captive ever as high.

And yet the Bush administration resisted any and all legal accommodations to ensure that such an abomination would not occur. With congressional allies, it fabricated military tribunals and commissions that would have been laughable had they not been the only recourse for detainees. Time and again the Supreme Court struck down administration attempts at faux process. Finally, a majority of the justices concluded that nothing short of independent federal court review would serve the interests of justice. These important developments would not have occurred without the involvement of talented and dedicated lawyers willing to put their reputations on the line to fight for systemic justice. Some of these lawyers undoubtedly represented bad guys, but to attribute to the lawyers the malevolence of some of their clients or to question now their loyalty to the U.S. government is to misunderstand a lawyer's duty to the law. These aren't potential traitors lurking about the Justice Department. They are patriots just as worthy of praise as Adams himself.

By Eva Rodriguez  | March 11, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments

I encourage Washington Post readers to avoid Thiessen's vile columns. If nobody reads his garbage, the Post will, hopefully, fire the swine.

Posted by: rashomon | March 11, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rodriguez asks: "How is one to know that those turned over by bounty hunters in Pakistan or captured in a remote village in Bosnia are in fact enemy combatants and suspected terrorists?" With the same insight Obama has that those he has ordered assasinations for ("targeted killing") are guilty.

Posted by: JohnnyGee | March 11, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

JohnnyGee, do you have anything substantive to add to the discussion aside from presenting a strawman in a dissembling attack on the President?

Posted by: joeyangel1 | March 11, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Islamic terrorists in detention should have only the right to petition the court for habeus corpus after claiming lack of evidence that they are terrorists, with the govt. only having to bear the burden of proof that it's more likely than not (coin toss) that they are, after which they only have a right to decent treatment in detention until the end of the war. Too bad, the way the U.S. is fighting the war on radical Islam, it might go on forever, and the U.S. is out of its depth in its ignorance of Islam's history. Study Islam's history free online with the Historyscoper and see how deep the rabbit hole goes at http://go.to/islamhistory

Posted by: tlwinslow | March 11, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse


Ms. Rodriguez says: "The possibility of indefinitely imprisoning an innocent person was never as real."

The writer is a little short on history.
The Vietnam war lasted more than a decade.
Israel and the Palestinians have been at one another for more than half a century.
Then,of course, there's the Thirty Years War and the Hundred Years War. Keeping captured combatants from returning to the battlefield in a long war is not a new problem as the writer alleges. Prior generations didn't simply overlook the possibility of a long war when they established prisoner policies. They adopted policies to deal with this problem, including prisoner exchanges, acceptomg promises not to return to the battlefield and life long imprisonment. Earlier generations (including the Founding Fathers) studied Roman, Greek and later wars. They knew wars often last generations when they established our prior prisoner policies. Ms Rogriguez exhibits a common modern American impatience and a limited view of history that prior generations did not have.

Ms. Rodriguez also neatly passes over the problem of gathering evidence. Police officers are usually not under fire when at the crime scene. Our soldiers are. We should not require our military to expose themselves to greater risk gathering evidence that trials require. Due process for enemy combatants isn't worth dead American soldiers.

Finally, the writer indicates "Its not as if American forces were capturing uniformed Nazi soldiers." A primary reason the Geneva Conventions were put in place was to reward soldiers for fighting in uniform and in identifiable units that can be easily distinguished from civilians by giving uniformed soldiers greater rights than those who fight without uniforms. The purpose was to reduce civilian casualties, which inevitably increase dramaticallty when military units hide among the civilian population. Ms. Rodriguez now proposes to reward our enemies with full due process trials that uniform soldiers would not have, because our enemies were not wearing uniforms. I suspect she may also be critical of our military when civilian causualties occur, perhaps in blissful ignorance that the pre-existing laws of war that she advocates replacing are a civilian's best friend.

Americans need to know whether the people setting and executing policy at the Justice Department are also guided by the same principles this writer is expousing.


Posted by: jfv123 | March 11, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Strange it may seem that AG Gonzales was criticized by the Democrats for firing of 5 lawyers for who were fired and do we know that they were fired for something similar like the similar stories as written by Thiessen's column and now the President has himself hired the lawyers who werre dubbed as DOJ ( Jihad )lawyers is there any differance ?

Posted by: dadbarman | March 11, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

It is ironic that those whose way of life would be most constricted by the success of the enemies of our civilization are those most reticent to allow the appropriate measures to defend that civilization. If politics ain't beanbag and "Chicago style" politics are appropriate now in Washington, war ain't skipping rope and we need to stop quibbling about the methods employed.

The argument that we are no better than our enemies if we must stoop to their means, avoids the central issue that we are, in fact, no better (or worse)...we are merely different and determined to keep on being different. Too many milquetoasts like Holder or Obama have never learned the basic lesson of the schoolyard: just because you don't want to fight doesn't impose any obligation on your adversary to cease and desist.

Posted by: CincinnatiRIck | March 11, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Fascist enemies of the US like Liz Cheney and most republicans don't want anything to do with honest trials and enforcement of our laws. If that were to happen the vast majority of them would be put away never to see the light of day again.
The mental midgets that support this fascism should be driven out of the country.

Posted by: brattykathyi1 | March 11, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"Al-Qaeda seven"

There's an awful lot of dirty, nasty implications in that title, and frankly right-wingnuts like that are what gave conservatism the bad rep it has today. Dirty Joe McCarthy is dead. Let's not resurrect that shameful period in our history. WaPo - evict Thiessen from your payroll.

Posted by: cb11 | March 11, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I guess we can expect the likes of Holder to have it spun in a favorable light for the times. BUT... would the same spin apply if they had sought to defend the David Dukes (KKK) of the current times??
Can you not see the Jesse and Al lookinng for new ways to extort money over this "tragedy?"

Posted by: NeoConVeteran | March 11, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

@jfv123

First the word you want is espousing, not "expousing."

Next; what the writer pointed out and what you have not dealt with is that there were detainees who were not literally captured on the battlefield by American troops engaged in combat. Some were brought in by Afghans who were paid for everyone they turned over. Some were no doubt combatants, others were proven to the satisfaction of the Bush administration not to have been and others, having spent years in Gitmo have, with benefit of counsel, also been cleared.

So the question is, are you okay with people being brought in for cash, who may or may not be guilty of what we say they are guilty of, having no opportunity to prove their innocence and being held for the rest of their lives?

Posted by: dwiles | March 11, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

if the al-qaida seven were the "david duke seven" and bush had put them in his DOJ civil rights division, do you think the democrats would want to start a national conversation about whether it was appropriate?

again, the question is not whether someone should be allowed to represent al-qaida or david duke but whether they should then be appointed to be a government lawyer in that precise area of law where they might have to enforce laws against the people they represented.

its certainly worth talking about as a country.

Posted by: dummypants | March 11, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Dummypants asked, "if the al-qaida seven were the "david duke seven" and bush had put them in his DOJ civil rights division, do you think the democrats would want to start a national conversation about whether it was appropriate?"

Yes, we would.

It's about the rule of law; we want it applied to the people we like the least as much as the people we want to protect.

Posted by: joeyangel1 | March 11, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

jfv123,

So your position is, who cares if more than half the men and children we held in GITMO were found innocent? If they were there, screw them? And who cares that we believe all men are entitled to liberty? Just wondering. Because if that's your belief, I'd like to place a citizen's arrest on you as a traitor to this nation and send you to GITMO. Good luck getting out of there without ha beaus corpus.

Posted by: pathfinder12 | March 11, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rodriguez asks: "How is one to know that those turned over by bounty hunters in Pakistan or captured in a remote village in Bosnia are in fact enemy combatants and suspected terrorists?" With the same insight Obama has that those he has ordered assasinations for ("targeted killing") are guilty.

Posted by: JohnnyGee
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
JohnnyGee, do you have anything substantive to add to the discussion aside from presenting a strawman in a dissembling attack on the President?

Posted by: joeyangel1
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Johnny has an excellent point, Joey. During the Bush Administration, SUSPECTED terrorists were captured and interrogated to see if they were really terrorists. About 90% of these guys were set free. The remainder await some sort of legal processing.

However, the Democrats POLITICIZED the legal process for partisan political advantage. This worked out for them great in the short term, gaining them the Presidency. But now that Mr. Obama is President, he finds that the legal process is crippled by politics and he can’t arrest SUSPECTED terrorists anymore.

So he simply has them assassinated, which he does at TRIPLE the rate of President Bush. Presumably, at least SOME of these guys are terrorists and thus the world is made safer.

Presumably.

Posted by: ZZim | March 11, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

The difference between the Left and Right on Justice Dept lawyers is striking:

President Bush’s lawyers acted to defend national security and save American lives.

President Obama's lawyers (the AQ 7) acted to defend terrorists who killed and threatened American lives.

Are they not both serving JUSTICE ?

The Left (including the New York Times) wanted Bush’s lawyers investigated and disbarred NOT so for Obama’s lawyers.

The Left pushed hard for ALL documents and information to be made public surrounding Bush’s lawyers - regardless of the cost to national security NOT so for Obama’s lawyers.

The Right only wants to KNOW what Obama’s lawyers are doing in the Justice Dept. and yet the Left is howling in indignation.

It says a lot about the focus and bias of the two media.

Posted by: pvilso24 | March 11, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Of course this argument is correct. The competent representation of these prisoners was necessary to uphold the American system of justice.

But to a degree her argument misses the point. Thiessen's objection to the lawyers was that they forced us to uphold the American system of justice when he found that to be inconvenient.

Posted by: beckerl | March 11, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

NeoConVeteran @ March 11, 2010 3:06 PM: YES! The same spin applies to one who defends the David Dukes of the world.

It does not mean that his defender agrees with him; it only means that a David Duke must have representation and a defense!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | March 11, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Truth to power in this piece, to counter the ugly and very unamerican piece by the right-wing hack and McCarthyite-throwback Thiessen.

Posted by: lloydamy | March 11, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

pvilso24 @ March 11, 2010 3:54 PM: There is a difference, but the one you state. This country is defined by the US Constitution. One of the things it stands for is the proposition that it is better that 99 guilty men go free, than 1 innocent man go to prison. (at least according to the founding fathers, but then again why would anyone pay attention, right?!)

I other words, those (lawyers especially) who try to circumvent the Constitution are NOT patriotic or defenders of this nation. They actually represent the reverse of what this nation stands for.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | March 11, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

rashomon wrote:
I encourage Washington Post readers to avoid Thiessen's vile columns. If nobody reads his garbage, the Post will, hopefully, fire the swine.

I encourage everyone to beat the living crap out of Thiessen.

Posted by: strictly_liberal | March 11, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Thiessen is a vile, vindictive and treasonous pig who believes the Constitution is to be observed at the convenience of right-hacks like himself. If there was a kindergarten for amateur lawyers, he'd flunk out. I can already see his eyes disappearing behind those piggy cheeks of his and his neck is in danger of overrunning his starched white collar while too much bourbon and fatty food turn his skin bright pink. I'd like to mail him a badger dosed on acid in a flimsy cardboard box

(R.I.P. Dr. Thompson. Only you could have really done this current crop of teabagging idiots justice)

Posted by: st50taw | March 11, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The principles the lawyers were defending are OUR principles--that those accused of crimes against the state are entitled to see the evidence against them and have it fairly judged in open court. All the sidebars about lawyers motivations are bedside the point. Given that more than 70 percent of these "combatants" have been released, it's seems fair to assume that the evidence tying them to crimes against the US was flimsy, and in some cases, nonexistent. The cretins like Theissen seem to believe that accusations are guilt and innuendo evidence. Take a glance at the Constitution.

Posted by: bklyndan22 | March 11, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rodriguez asks: "How is one to know that those turned over by bounty hunters in Pakistan or captured in a remote village in Bosnia are in fact enemy combatants and suspected terrorists?"

With the same insight Obama has that those he has ordered assasinations for ("targeted killing") are guilty.

Indeed.

Just as Obama has ordered the whacking with .50 caliber bullets of 3 Ismaoid men and one Islamoid boy if they are caught planting an IED. Rather than attempting to arrest the alleged suspects and give them a fair trial under rule of law. To even justify imprisoning those poor Islamoids - let alone violating their precious enemy rights by some Marine sniper in no fear of his life, in no need of self-defense - just summarily administering the death penalty to these misguided criminal suspects. And even a teenaged child!

All on Obama's orders!

I guess what really makes Leftie heads explode is Obama is still ordering SERE school soldiers and CIA agents to be waterboarded as training..Or maybe not. Perhaps they think it is torture to do that to an Islamoid terrorist, but true social justice to waterboard "American oppressors of noble brown peoples".

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | March 11, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

jfv123,
So your position is, (1)who cares if more than half the men and children we held in GITMO were found innocent? If they were there, screw them? (2)And who cares that we believe all men are entitled to liberty? Just wondering. Because if that's your belief, (3)I'd like to place a citizen's arrest on you as a traitor to this nation and send you to GITMO. Good luck getting out of there without ha beaus corpus.
Posted by: pathfinder12

1. 99.8% of the German POWs we held, soldier and civilian alike - were never convicted of a crime. And 84% of similar Japanese enemy. We did not regret "holding the innocent" Nazis, etc. There is no innocence or guilt considerations driving war decisions. We held them as enemy because they were dangerous to us in war, and only released the innocent Nazis when war was over and the danger ended.

2. In war, we don't believe all men are entitled to liberty. We believe that enemy soldiers and certain enemy civilians are entitled to a bullet or other ordnace delivered on them. Some may be spared and arrested, if we chose to - but even Obama is finding it easier, cheaper and simpler just to whack them in their sleep or while they are tooling around in their SUV.

3. Your arrest fantasy would likely lead to conservative cops considering you a terrorist supporter or nutball. The DA would start with 60 days psychiatric observation while other agents combed your hard drive phone &credit card records for evidence of treason, contact with or support of the Islamoid enemy. Your arrestee would of course be released at the police station.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | March 11, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

The issue is, is there a certain kind of background that ought to disqualify an attorney from working in certain areas in the Justice Department.

Attorneys who represented drug smugglers should not work in the divisions responsible for drug enforcement. Attorneys who represent gangsters should not work in the organized crime divisions. And attorneys who represented terrorist suspects, or worked for firms that specialized in representing terrorist suspects, should not have anything to do with prosecuting them or determining the policies which would determine how they ought to be prosecuted. Additionally, they should not have clearance to even see what the anti-terror divisions are doing.

Lastly, Attorney General Holder should answer the questions about how they were hired and why he kept their names secret. If this was all perfectly routine and appropriate, then why the secrecy? And are any of them working in areas where they have access to anti-terror cases?

Posted by: JBaustian | March 11, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

"Attorneys who represented drug smugglers should not work in the divisions responsible for drug enforcement."

Oh sure. And attorneys that ever defended a convicted criminal should be barred from ever working in any division whatsoever of the DoJ. Bzzzt. Sorry, your screed doesn't pass the BS test.

Posted by: fzdybel | March 11, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

The Bush dead-enders like Theissen (now playing out their discredited nonsense in overtime) have contempt for American ideals like due process. They truly pine for the totalitarian dictatorships like the ones rightwingers always favored in central America - where due process was a joke the brownshirted thugs would rib each other with as some prisoner languished anonymously for decades in some hell hole and the brutalized him for sport.

The Bush dead-enders stand for everything America rightfully stands against.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 11, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Obama kills women and children with missile firing drones while trying to kill a suspected terrorist on the same sort of intelligence Bush used to capture just the suspected terrorist and take him to Guantonimo to sort it out. Ms. Rodriguez, if you have a problem with Bush taking the suspected terrorist to Guantonimo maybe you should gather up the body parts of the women and children killed in Drone attackes and put them bags as there are several and take them to meet with Obama and let him explain it to you.

Posted by: robtr | March 11, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Under the U,S system of law in the U.S every accused person is presumed innocent before proven guilty. As for P.O.W they should be tried by a miitary court with right to a defense counsel ( be them in uniform or not ) ( Bear in mind most Al Quaeda fighters dont wear a uniform as such ). Some will be proven not guilty and wil go free as already happened with many.So far sogood. As for the defense councels that will defend them they are merely doing their job. In wars many prisoners were freed simply because the defense argued that they were following orders. However I see no reason why these
accused should be tried in a civil court of law.It just does noy make sense. On what ground ? Innocent or not they are prisonors of war.

Posted by: jeanpierregamet | March 11, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Obedience follows blindly and freedom has open eyes. There is false doing and false hearing. If the thing worth hearing is worth doing, it will be done. A conviction can be stated without anger. I didn't sense he was angry. You look at the DOJ and look at the GM and AIG situations and see justice as a joke on the public. Capital punishment is needed. Slavish obedience to fools is folly. And they are fools.

Posted by: tossnokia | March 11, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post rose to unsuspected heights. The alternative is not an option. The alternative is hell and no intel. A repetition of terror.

Posted by: tossnokia | March 11, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

jeanpierregamet ~ the problem is that the guys in Justice department who were out there defending enemy aliens now have access to the prosecution information.

Best way to keep that from not happening is to not give these people government jobs.

Besides, as I pointed out before, they are lawyers so there are other fields to fleece (to mix metaphors).

We probably shouldn't allow a person as tainted with conflict as Eric be the AG.

Posted by: muawiyah | March 11, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

One of the Al Qaeda 7 has confessed, here's Rachel Maddow breaking the story with Al Qaeda lawyer Lt Col David Frakt:

Maddow: That must have been very frustrating for you. Didn’t you also represent another client, a juvenile?

Frakt: Yes, I did represent another young Afghan named Mohammed Jawad, but he was a big disappointment also.

Maddow: How so?

Frakt: Well, as it turned out, he wasn’t a member of al-Qaida, or even the Taliban. In fact, he wasn’t a terrorist at all. He didn’t even know any terrorists! The only real consolation with Mohammed was that the United States had tortured him, so I was able to exploit that for substantial propaganda value, but otherwise, he was a dud.

Maddow: What happened to him?

Frakt: Unfortunately, after I proved that his confession was the product of torture and that he was innocent, he was ordered released by a federal judge. I’m pretty sure she is a terrorist sympathizer as well. In fact, your viewers may be interested to learn that all the judges on the Federal District Court bench in Washington are part of one big al-Qaida sleeper cell.

Posted by: Scientician | March 11, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Read the whole confession:
http://www.salon.com/news/guantanamo/index.html?story=/news/feature/2010/03/09/confessions_terrorist_sympathizer

Posted by: Scientician | March 11, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

ChrisFord1,
The problem is that you're talking about these detainees as if they're prisoners of war, while an integral part of the Bush/Cheney/Thiessen mantra is that they're not in fact prisoners of war with Geneva Convention rights; they're in some hazy legal netherworld where we can do whatever we want to them for as long as we want. This is a major snag for those of us who believe that we are a nation governed by laws, not by men. Either they're POWs and entitled to the resulting rights, or they're criminals and are entitled to the resulting rights. Whichever it is, they can't just disappear into a legal black hole because we want them to. That way lies totalitarianism.

Posted by: wlrube | March 12, 2010 3:49 AM | Report abuse

Jbaustian: The issue is, is there a certain kind of background that ought to disqualify an attorney from working in certain areas in the Justice Department.

Attorneys who represented drug smugglers should not work in the divisions responsible for drug enforcement. Attorneys who represent gangsters should not work in the organized crime divisions. And attorneys who represented terrorist suspects, or worked for firms that specialized in representing terrorist suspects, should not have anything to do with prosecuting them or determining the policies which would determine how they ought to be prosecuted.

- - -
Apparently you think that attorneys’ eligibility to work in government should depend on who they represented in private practice. You would therefore agree that any attorney who represented or worked for a firm that specialized in representing business corporations should not have anything to do with prosecuting or regulating business corporations, right? You realize that your standard would wipe out virtually all of the leadership in DOJ and regulatory agencies in both Democratic and Republican administrations, as well as disqualify many DOJ staff attorneys. But you really do not mean to apply your “standard” do you?

Aside to wlrube: Thank you for cutting through the smokescreens, and getting it exactly right.

Posted by: dwells3 | March 12, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Thiessen uses two main factors that he says allow for such indefinite detention: that the detainees are foreigners, and that they have not been accused of any crime. So under his view, any foreigner in this country (students, tourists, business executives, etc.) could be taken into custody by the police, and be held indefinitely without right to counsel, just so long as the police do NOT actually accuse them of doing anything illegal. And if someone complains, then we just call them an enemy combatant, because we don't have to show any evidence or prove to anyone that that label is incorrectly applied.

Posted by: srm4m | March 12, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

jbaustian wrote:
>>Apparently you think that attorneys’ eligibility to work in government should depend on who they represented in private practice.<<

That's not what Keep America Safe is arguing. Their point is that the public has a right to know which DOJ lawyers advocated for Gitmo detainees, what their assigned responsibilities are in DOJ, and whether they engaged in shenanigans like those reported here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704131404575117611125872740.html
Do you think that the public does *not* have a right to this information?

Posted by: wumhenry | March 15, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

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