Friday, February 19, 2010

Just Lovely! ::: Holder admits nine Obama Dept. of Justice officials worked for terrorist detainees, offers no details

Here's that hope and change we've been looking for.

Attorney General Eric Holder says nine Obama appointees in the Justice Department have represented or advocated for terrorist detainees before joining the Justice Department. But he does not reveal any names beyond the two officials whose work has already been publicly reported. And all the lawyers, according to Holder, are eligible to work on general detainee matters, even if there are specific parts of some cases they cannot be involved in.

Holder's admission comes in the form of an answer to a question posed last November by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. Noting that one Obama appointee, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, formerly represented Osama bin Laden's driver, and another appointee, Jennifer Daskal, previously advocated for detainees at Human Rights Watch, Grassley asked Holder to give the Senate Judiciary Committee "the names of political appointees in your department who represent detainees or who work for organizations advocating on their behalf…the cases or projects that these appointees work with respect to detainee prior to joining the Justice Department…and the cases or projects relating to detainees that have worked on since joining the Justice Department."

In his response, Holder has given Grassley almost nothing. He says nine Obama political appointees at the Justice Department have advocated on behalf of detainees, but did not identify any of the nine other than the two, Katyal and Daskal, whose names Grassley already knew. "To the best of our knowledge," Holder writes,

during their employment prior to joining the government, only five of the lawyers who serve as political appointees in those components represented detainees, and four others either contributed to amicus briefs in detainee-related cases or were otherwise involved in advocacy on behalf of detainees.

Holder says other Obama appointees, like Holder himself, came from law firms which represented detainees but did no work on behalf of the terrorist prisoners. But other than Katyal and Daskal, Holder does not reveal any names of any Obama appointees, nor does he mention the cases they worked on.

And what are they recused from, anyway? Very little. Holder writes that Katyal has not worked on any Guantanamo detainee matters but has participated in litigation involving detainees who continue to be detained at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan and in litigation involving [Ali Saleh Kahlah] al-Marri, who was detained on U.S. soil." As for Daskal, "she has generally worked on policy issues related to detainees," Holder writes. "Her detainee-related work has been fully consistent with advice she received from career department officials regarding her obligations."

As for everyone else, Holder lists no names and no cases, but in a paragraph filled with modifiers, he makes it clear that all the lawyers who had advocated for detainees are free to work on general detainee matters.

The senior Department officials referenced above, like other political appointees who are similarly situated, have recused from particular matters regarding specific detainees in which their former firms represent the detainee or another party and from decisions relating specifically to the dispositions of particular detainees represented by their former firms. These recusals pertain to decisions relating to particularmatters involving specific parties who are or have been represented by their former law firms within the relevant time period. However, as noted above, these senior officials have been authorized to participate in policy and legal decisions regarding detainee matters, in particular matters regarding specific detainees whom their prior employer did not represent, and in decisions relating to the disposition of such detainees. [emphasis added]

Finally, it is possible that there are more than nine political appointees who worked for detainees. Holder tells Grassley that he did not survey the Justice Department as a whole but instead canvassed several large offices within the organization.

Bottom line: Holder revealed no names beyond the two already publicly known. He revealed no cases from which Justice political appointees recused themselves. The letter, which will likely be interpreted on Capitol Hill as a thumb-your-nose statement, is sure to anger Republican senators more than satisfy them.

Holder admits nine Obama Dept. of Justice officials worked for terrorist detainees, offers no details | Washington Examiner

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