Who are the al Qaeda seven?

Keep America Safe is the handiwork of Bill Kristol, Lilz Cheney and Debra Burlingame. Its mission is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Paul Mirengoff has now twice attacked as “McCarthyite” the Keep America Safe ad urging the Obama administration to identify certain Department of Justice officials. The ad refers to the attorneys in question as “the al Qaeda seven.”
Paul argues that the then-unidentified attorneys are not terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. Referring to them as “the al Qaeda seven” depicts them “as sharing al Qaeda values” and can therefore be compared to some of the accusations associated with McCarthyism. I respectfully disagree.
The ad asks: “Who are the al Qaeda seven?” It was a good question. At the time the ad was placed online, the Department of Justice refused to identify them. I know of no good reason supporting its refusal. The ad urged the Obama administration to identify them. Although Paul asserts that the seven do not share “al Qaeda values” and acted out of misguided civil libertarianism, there was an epistemological problem with that assertion. We did not know who they were.
Moreover, in the context of the ad, “the al Qaeda seven” are specified generically as those Department of Justice attorneys who represented or advocated for terrorist detainees. That specification is accurate. Referring to them as “the al Qaeda seven” is harshly polemical. Whether it is unfair is a matter of judgment.
The ad ominously asks: “Whose values do they share?” It leaves the question open and implies the possibility of a sinister answer. Again, whether it is unfair is a matter of judgment. Under the circumstances, I think it is harsh but not unfair.
Let’s go to the tape. You be the judge.
Contrary to one point Paul makes, not all attorneys who have represented terrorists or al Qaeda detainees have done so out of misguided civil libertarianism. Asserting and defending the rights of terrorists has been a staple of radical outfits such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild. I don’t think it is fair to assume that the seven necessarily rendered legal services to Guantanamo detainees out of a misguided civil libertarianism.
In October 2003 I spoke with long-time NLG member Lynne Stewart, the attorney who represented the blind sheik at the World Trade Center bombing trial, and Joseph Margulies, a CCR-affiliated attorney who was representing Guantanamo detainees. We appeared on a panel devoted to attacking the PATRIOT Act at the National Lawyers Guild national convention in Minneapolis. (I defended the act.)
Stewart was under indictment at the time on charges that she facilitated the support of a foreign terrorist organization in the course of her representation of the blind sheik. Not surprisingly, Stewart was surrounded by friends and supporters at the Guild convention. She was a celebrity attraction.
At the convention the Guild was championing the cause of the Guantanamo detainees, but also the cause of “the Cuban five.” The five, of course, are not any of Castro’s prisoners, but rather are five Cuban men held in federal prison on conviction of offenses including espionage against the United States on behalf of Castro. “Free the Cuban Five” is the motto; the cause of the Cuban five is part of the Guild’s old-time religion. It has nothing to do with civil liberties.
PAUL responds: Scott writes: “Paul Mirengoff has now twice attacked as ‘McCarthyite’ the Keep America Safe ad urging the Obama administration to identify certain Department of Justice officials.” Just to be clear, it is not McCarthyite to run an ad urging the Obama administration to identify DOJ officials who defended terrorists and suspected terrorists, and my post praised efforts to ascertain these names.
It is, in my view, comparable to some of what McCarthy did — and quite improper — to suggest that lawyers who defended terrorists and suspected terrorists share al Qaeda values or constitute the “al Qaeda Seven.” The fact that the primary motive of the ad may have been to cause DOJ to identify the seven attorneys does not excuse the attacks leveled against these attorneys.
Scott writes: “I don’t think it is fair to assume that the seven necessarily rendered legal services to Guantanamo detainees out of a misguided civil libertarianism.” But the ad Scott defends suggests that the seven attorneys rendered these legal services because they share al Qaeda’s values and (I don’t know how else to interpret “the al Qaeda Seven” label) are pro al Qaeda, if not al Qaeda themselves. Was that a fair suggestion? I say it patently was not.
Scott thinks “under the circumstances,” the point about sharing al Qaeda values was “harsh but not unfair.” He does not invoke this distinction when it comes to the “al Qaeda Seven” label; rather he says only that the fairness of this label “is a matter of judgment.”
I’m not sure what circumstances render either part of the ad fair. The cirumstance Scott points to is the fact that, at the time the ad ran, we did not know the identity of the seven lawyers. But this was a very good reason not to call them the al Qaeda Seven or to imply that they share al Qaeda’s values. If Keep America Safe had known that the lawyers were all Lynne Stewart clones, it might have been a different matter.
Meanwhile, Liz Cheney says that the ad Keep American Safe ran “doesn’t question anyone’s loyalty.” I think it plainly does. However, I’m glad she has moved away from asking such questions. Keep America Safe has been at the forefront of raising great questions about the Obama administration’s substantive anti-terrorism policies. If it avoids unfair and inflammatory attacks on the makers of these policies, it can, I hope, remain at the forefront of this effort.
SCOTT adds: The circumstances to which I referred were the Obama administration’s unwarranted refusal to identify the seven Department of Justice officials. As I construe the ad, it designates the previously unidentified seven as those who represented or advocated on behalf of Guantanamo detainees and thus fairly dubs them “the al Qaeda seven.”

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