Jennifer Daskal is a Department of Justice lawyer, having been brought on-board by Eric Holder as part of DOJ’s Detainee Policy Task Force. Before coming to DOJ, Daskal was with Human Rights Watch, where she was an outspoken critic of the CIA and the interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration. (She was not, however, one of the seven DOJ lawyers whose identity Holder initially would not reveal; Daskal’s role as an advocate for terrorist detainees was already known).
There’s nothing shocking about Holder’s decislon to hire a critic of the Bush-era CIA or its interrogation techniques. President Obama himself is such a critic, and elections have consequences.
However, Debra Burlingame and Tom Joscelyn report that Daskal wasn’t just a critic of the CIA. They say she helped stalk the Agency as part of an effort that undermined its covert operations and put its agents at risk:
Daskal’s anti-CIA activism was not limited to making hyperbolic statements to the press. Daskal and Human Rights Watch played a significant role in uncovering the CIA’s secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, where top terrorists were detained and interrogated.
Indeed, Daskal apparently worked with officials from the European parliament to expose aspects of the CIA’s counter-terrorism operations. European parliament records contain the following information about a meeting with Daskal and others:
The delegation met with John SIFTON (Counterterrorism Researcher) and Jennifer DASKAL (US Advocacy Director) who provided the delegation with circumstantial evidence linking Poland and Romania to secret CIA prisons, including flight records, statements by Polish and Romanian government officials, as well as precise details of specific planes used by the CIA. Both recognized that they do not have formal evidence of these allegations, but stressed the indications of these facts were actually very strong. Their information was that there had been detainees in CIA custody well before the Guantánamo Bay detention center had been established.
Burlingame and Joscelyn also report that lawyers for Gitmo detainees worked with Human Rights Watch to use information obtained through their legal representations to ascertain the location of the CIA’s secret sites and the identities of the CIA personnel charged with transporting (via special flights), detaining, and interrogating terrorists. As the aforementioned Sifton has said: “When I was working at Human Rights Watch, I managed to piece together a good deal of information about the CIA’s detention facilities in Afghanistan by collecting accounts from former CIA detainees at Guantanamo, mostly from notes provided by habeas attorneys.”
Human Rights Watch eventually published Sifton’s investigation of the CIA’s detention facilities in Afghanistan in 2007. That report was reviewed and edited by Jennifer Daskal.
One result of the kinds of efforts described by Sifton was that CIA operatives involved in detaining and interrogating terrorists had their photographs taken and shown to terrorists. This was the handiwork of attorneys working for the John Adams Project, a joint initiative of the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Naturally, the CIA is not amused. It believes that these efforts compromised its ongoing operations and could lead to reprisals against interrogators. And, at a minimum, the sharing of information obtained in representing detainees almost surely violates a 2004 protective order on this matter.
Accordingly, the CIA reportedly has pressed the Justice Department to investigate aggressively whether the John Adams Project lawyers broke the law. According to the same reports, the Holder Justice Department has downplayed the issue. Bill Gertz of the Washington Times attributes DOJ’s reticence to particular lawyers within the department who are “sympathetic to the John Adams Project.” Is Jennifer Daskal one of these lawyers? It’s easy to believe that she is. Is Holder himself one of these lawyers? I suspect so.
If the Republicans win the House next fall, this matter should be high on its list of investigations, with Holder and Daskal high on the list of witnesses.
Holder has described attorneys like Daskal as “patriots.” Let’s hear him publicly defend that position before a Republican-controlled committee. Given his normal incoherence when he testifies on matters relating to terrorism, it should be quite an event.