Former legal advisor to the Secretary of State John Bellinger III `82 and Philip Bobbitt `71, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, signed a statement protesting recent attacks against attorneys in the Department of Justice who have represented Guantánamo detainees as private clients before their appointment.
Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, issued the letter on Sunday in response to claims by Keep America Safe, a conservative advocacy organization, questioning the loyalty and patriotism of seven Justice Department attorneys.
Keep America Safe released a video last week in which the attorneys were referred to as the “Al Qaeda Seven.” The effort was led by Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Eminent conservative figures such as former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson and former acting attorney general Peter Keisler joined Bellinger and Bobbitt as signatories of the letter.
Alluding to John Adams’ defense of the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre, the statement cited “the American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients ... 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.”
The letter described the campaign initiated by Keep America Safe as “a shameful series of attacks” against Justice Department lawyers who have either represented terrorism suspects or supported amendments to detention policy.
The statement argued that “a uniformity of background and view in government service” would not benefit any administration, and a “diverse array of prior private clients,” adds to the strength of the Justice Department.
America’s response to the debate surrounding possible changes to detention policy depends on “an aggressive defense bar” and “those who take up that function do a service to the system,” the letter concluded.
By Dilek Izek, staff writer for News