Conservative lawyers criticize attacks on DOJ lawyers

March 8, 2010

Bill Kristol just launched a pre-emptive assault on a statement criticizing his and Liz Cheney’s group, Keep America Safe, which bears the signature of Brookings’ Ben Wittes, a prominent lawyer who’s typically a Cheney ally.

Ben Smith at Politico obtained a copy of the statement:

The past several days have seen a shameful series of attacks on attorneys in the Department of Justice who, in previous legal practice, either represented Guantanamo detainees or advocated for changes to detention policy. As attorneys, former officials, and policy specialists who have worked on detention issues, we consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications.

The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams’ representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre. People come to serve in the Justice Department with a diverse array of prior private clients; that is one of the department’s strengths. The War on Terror raised any number of novel legal questions, which collectively created a significant role in judicial, executive and legislative forums alike for honorable advocacy on behalf of detainees. In several key cases, detainee advocates prevailed before the Supreme Court. To suggest that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees maligns the patriotism of people who have taken honorable positions on contested questions and demands a uniformity of background and view in government service from which no administration would benefit.

Such attacks also undermine the Justice system more broadly. In terrorism detentions and trials alike, defense lawyers are playing, and will continue to play, a key role. Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. Guantanamo detainees likewise have access to lawyers for purposes of habeas review, and the reach of that habeas corpus could eventually extend beyond this population. Good defense counsel is thus key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests. To delegitimize the role detainee counsel play is to demand adjudications and policymaking stripped of a full record. Whatever systems America develops to handle difficult detention questions will rely, at least some of the time, on an aggressive defense bar; those who take up that function do a service to the system.

* *

* *

*Benjamin Wittes*
·Senior Fellow and Research Director in Public Law, The Brookings Institution

*Robert Chesney*
Charles I. Francis Professor in Law, University of Texas School of Law
Nonresident, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

*Matthew Waxman*
Associate Professor, Columbia Law School
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs

*David Rivkin*
Partner, Washington, D.C. Office, Baker Hostetler, L.L.P.
Former Deputy Director, Office of Policy Development, Department of Justice, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations
Former Associate General Counsel, Department of Energy

*Philip Bobbitt*
Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the Center for National Security, Columbia Law School

*Peter Keisler*
Former Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division
Former Acting Attorney General, Department of Justice


History’s Turning Points Episode 6: 1879 AD, The Zulus at War

February 21, 2010

Sixth of this six part series.

After diamonds were discovered at Kimberley and gold in the Transvaal, British colonization stepped up. Charged with stopping Zulu attacks, 5000 British soldiers invaded Zululand, setting camp at Isandalwana, they more than 1300 Brits died.

Who Feeds Glenn Beck?

February 20, 2010

The Daily Beast’s John Avlon examines Glenn Beck’s Dark Past. What struck me was this passage of the article:

Beck’s newfound firebrand politics and effectiveness in driving the news cycle had some old friends scratching their heads. “I never got the impression that Glenn is as naturally curious as he appears to be to be bringing the information forward that he is,” said Jim Sumpter. “I don’t know if Glenn’s being fed or if Glenn’s really the driving force. I have no idea. If he’s the driving force, that’s a Glenn Beck I never saw. If he’s being fed, then the showmanship that goes into all of this is classic Beck. Now if Glenn is the showman and the driving force behind bringing the information to the forefront, then, then I think we’re probably looking at near genius in terms of what he’s doing … [but] I don’t think this is Glenn. The catalyst in this thing is not Glenn. Glenn’s the vehicle, not the catalyst.”

In other parts of the article there are other testimonies of surprised former colleges. They aren’t surprised by Glenn Beck’s success because they always thought he was a terrific showman, they are surprised of the field: politics.

Rather than moaning on a daily basis that Beck is a liar and a cheat, his media opponents would be well inspired in doing a little investigative journalism and find out by whom and how the topics of his radio and cable shows are selected. Who is, or are, his puppet master(s)?

History’s Turning Points Episode 5: 1759 AD, The Battle For Canada

February 18, 2010

Fifth of this six part series.

In the first half of the 18th century, British and French interests in North America increasingly overlapped. British war minister William Pitt ordered an invasion up the St. Lawrence. Racing winter, British forces scaled the cliffs near Quebec City at night, with no retreat possible.

The Adults Aren’t Alright

February 16, 2010

The New Republic’s Michelle Cottle has an interesting take on the alleged lack of internet maturity of “the young”:

I’m sorry, but from where I sit, it ain’t the young’uns having notable trouble setting barriers and using technology with any level of discretion, reserve, or common sense. Rather, every time you turn around, an ostensible grown-up has done something monumentally stupid like sexting his mistress, sending filthy instant messages to strapping young House pages, or tweeting about his congressional delegation’s classified landing in Iraq. And how about that moron in North Carolina who googled the many and varied ways to kill a person in the days before killing his wife? Now there’s a guy in need of a lesson on the dangers of interconnectivity. This is not to say that younger users don’t do plenty of stupid stuff as well. But, as often as not, it’s the older generations that clearly can’t be trusted to navigate even basic media and networking tools.

The Day Google Became Just Another Company

February 16, 2010

Baseline Scenario’s James Kwak hit the nail on the head when describing Google Buzz’s controversial launch. I.e. the king is naked:

Not the day they launched Google Buzz, but the day that Google Buzz product manager Todd Jackson responded to legitimate privacy concerns by writing this piece of meaningless corporate PR spin worthy of, well, any other company out there: “Google remains completely committed to freedom of expression and to privacy, and we have a strong track record of protecting both.”

The Loss Of Faith

February 16, 2010

A former believer describes his “deconversion”:

History’s Turning Points Episode 4: 1453 AD, The Siege of Constantinople

February 15, 2010

Forth of this six part series.

In 1204 crusaders sacked the city, then renamed Constantinople. For the next thousand years, the Byzantine Kings hid safely behind the massive walls of Constantinople. Then in 1453, with the Turkish Ottoman Empire encircling the city, Sultan Mehmet brought the newest technology of the 15th century, the cannon, and finally brought down the walls of the world’s most impregnable fortress.

History’s Turning Points Episode 3: 1347 AD, The Black Death

February 12, 2010

Third of this six part series.

When a plague-ridden ship landed in Venice in 1347, it was immediately put into quarantine…but no one could stop the rats from corning ashore. Within three years, a third of Western Europe’s population was dead. It was the greatest calamity in history.

History’s Turning Points Epusode 2: 480 BC, The Battle of Salamis

February 9, 2010

Second of this six part series.

At Salamis Bay, the Golden Age began when the Greeks expel the Persians, sinking 200 Persian ships while losing only 40 of their own. Themistocles not only was not rewarded for his victory, but was removed as Athen’s leader for being too arrogant.