Former Attorney General (and federal district court judge) Michael Mukasey provides his view of how to regard (or, more precisely, how not to regard) Justice Department lawyers who represented terrorist detainees. The article, which is “subscription only,” appears in the Wall Street Journal.
Here are, perhaps, the two key paragraphs:
It is plainly prudent for us to assure that no government lawyers are bringing to their public jobs any agenda driven by views other than those that would permit full-hearted enforcement of laws that fall within their responsibility–whether those laws involve prosecution of drug dealers, imposition of the death penalty, or detention of those who seek to wage holy war against the United States. It’s also prudent that Congress exercise its long-established oversight responsibility to provide that assurance.
But that prudence is not properly exercised by arguing that lawyers who defended drug cases, or worked on defense teams in death-penalty cases, or helped bring legal proceedings in behalf of those detained as terrorists, are automatically to be identified with their former clients and regarded as a fifth column within the Justice Department. The rules of conduct of the District of Columbia bar, for example, direct that representation of a client not be portrayed as endorsement of the client’s views or behavior.
The Keep America Safe ad provided a service by pressing the administration to identify the DOJ lawyers who performed legal services for those detained as terrorists. Doing so served the objective, endorsed by Mukasey, of assuring that government lawyers don’t bring to their public jobs any agenda driven by views other than those that would permit full-hearted enforcement of laws that fall within their responsibility.
But the ad went too far because, by calling the DOJ lawyers “the al Qaeda Seven” (among other statements), it automatically identifed the attorneys with their former clients and suggested that the attorneys can be regarded as a fifth column for al Qaeda within the Justice Department.
UPDATE: Bill Otis, at the Crime and Consequences blog, offers some thoughts about Mukasey’s op-ed and my post.