I found on Politico that CAAFlog contributor Cully Stimson and other former President George W. Bush administration lawyers have come out against Keep America Safe’s demonizing of DOJ lawyers that served as pro bono counsel for Gitmo detainees. 

A group that includes leading conservative lawyers and policy experts , former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and several senior officials of the last Bush administration [No Man: including Cully Stimson] is denouncing as “shameful” Republican attacks on lawyers who came to the Obama Justice Department after representing suspected terrorists.

I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that means 100% CAAFlog contributor disagreement with Keep America Safe’s statements on pro bono counsel. But, I’ll wait to hear from our other contributors.

UpdateHere is a link to the letter, or the text of it, I can’t quite tell.  Here is a good quote form the letter:

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.

19 Responses to “CAAFlog Contributors Against Keep America Safe Ad”

  1. Anon says:

    I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone, contributor or commentor/anon who defends the comments and position of “Keep America Safe.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of who the client is, an infantry Soldier or Al-Q guy in Cuba — we have a legal process/system. Folks higher than us have placed individuals within this system. Half of us defend the individuals while the other half prosecutes them.

    I’ll never understand why people have such a hard time with this. Being a Trial Defense Counsel doesn’t mean you are pro-rape. Doing defense work for Osama’s pals doesn’t make you a terrorist sympathizer. It makes you a lawyer doing a job. Having to explain oneself is getting tiring.

    Raise your hands trial/appellate defenders, if you’ve had at least one family member ask “How can you defend HIM?” (bah-no more thumbs up signs) New cars, all of you, look under your seats.

  3. Anon says:

    Can somebody clarify, is the objection to the existence of pro bono defense counsel, or former detainee defense attorneys who actively argued to undermine the legitimacy of the Commissions (regardless of whether they were right or wrong) now inside the Justice Department making prosecutorial/policy decisions about the commissions? Seems the latter is open to legitimate discussion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The whole issue is that the ill-advised ad conflates the two.

    The Keeping America Safe ad implicitly assumes that the only reason someone takes a detainee’s case (later clarified as taking it “pro bono”) is because s/he has some sort of deep-seeded hatred for the military-commission system. This, however, is an irrational, faulty assumption.

    I know many who have taken theses cases because they believe that giving everyone zealous representation, and working to ensure that we have a constitutional system, constitutes one of the more patriotic things we can do as lawyers.

    Also, as lawyers, we all have stakes in institutional legitimacy. Given that one of these vilified lawyers sought, and received, relief from the Supreme Court on behalf of a detainee demonstrates that the government was running a system that offended our Constitution – the very thing we swear to support and defend. What are we supposed to do, allow the government to continue with such processes? Trust the government that everyone they deem a “terrorist” really is a terrorist with such certainty that we do not need any sort informed decision making from a detached party?

    I agree that, in any case, if lawyers have personal beliefs that preclude them from adequately serving their clients (in this case, faithfully enforcing the detainee policies of the DOJ), then they should not work for that client. I also believe, however, that the determination of whether can faithfully serve the DOJ should stay within the prerogative of the AG. He has ways to vet lawyers – conflict checks, personal interviews, etc. – that he can use without making the huge leap in (il)logic that “people who represent detainees [pro bono] are soft on terror” or somehow unpatriotic. He could have found them just as patriotic as other people who take part in the system.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to hear Mr. Stimson’s thoughts regarding the differences between these “shameful” comments and his prior comments that got him in so much trouble.

  6. Christopher Mathews says:

    Well, I guess that would be me.

    I am proud to defend the right of the “Keep America Safe” movement’s leaders to make such deeply unserious comments. I wholeheartedly endorse their decision to submit their positions to public scorn.

  7. Late Bloomer says:

    Well said Anon @ 1609.

  8. Anon says:

    See, I’m not prepared to assume pure motives for the all of the defense attorneys in these cases, pro bono or appointed. I’m not saying their motives are sinister or have anything to do with terrorism. However, we are talking about a bunch of lawyers here, many of whom are self-promoting, holier-than-thou blowhards, who simply want to fight against “the man.” While I don’t think demonizing them is appropriate, we probably don’t need to beatify them the way many of the official CAAFLog contributors seem to do in their posts. Also, if an attorney has publically railed against the commissions system on behalf of his client, I’m not sure I’d want him in the Justice Department making decisions about which cases go to those same commissions. Seems like a pretty significant conflict of interest, regardless of whether the Atty Gen approves of the person’s hire.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Anon 9:06, you just don’t get it. Railing against the commissions, particularly the same commissions many an active duty JAG Corps officer railed against, is the type of attorney DOJ needs. I suppose you think DOJ attorneys should continue challenging the right to habeas in favor of the CSRTs since that used to be DOJ’s position. .

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well, you should not assume “pure motives” for ANY attorney when making representation decisions. The conflict of interest argument came up after the ad. The initial ad explicitly questions the ideals and loyalties of attorneys because of whom they represented. The conflict of interest argument came out in talk shows only after the backlash from the ad – no doubt because it is the more legitimate argument. Even then, however, how a lawyer feels about commissions and terror is a separate and distinct issue from the people they have represented in the past. Otherwise, you could say that former NLSO attorneys should never PCS to the RLSO or vice versa. That would be a tad ridiculous.

    If someone vehemently disagrees with the commissions system, it could set up the text-book conflict of interest at the DOJ. As outsiders, however, how do we know that? Maybe someone disagrees with the military commissions as they existed (as SCOTUS did) vice disagreeing with commissions under any circumstances. Also, if the AG wants to create a more constitutional system, it is well within his discretion (and probably a good idea) to bring in people who spent a lot of time analyzing the constitutional flaws of past systems. I would love to have some of my past opposing counsel helping me craft arguments in future cases.

    Since DOJ could have legitimate reasons for bringing these people on board (aside from being in bed with the terrorists), a lot of this depends on the context, and each hiring decision hinges on specific evaluations of the personal feelings of the lawyers, we should afford DOJ some degree of deference. Of does DOJ need to run every hiring through you?

  11. Anon says:

    Actually, I “get it” just fine. My point is that there is nothing wrong with questioning someone’s motives. If someone working for the Dep’t of Justice is motivated by interests that are in conflict with representing his current client, i.e. the People of the United States, it is a fair question to ask if that person should be working for DOJ. Also, I didn’t say that anyone opposed to the commissions shouldn’t be in DOJ, as your post implied it did. My exact words were “publically railed against the commissions system on behalf of his client.” The “behalf of his client” is kind of an important modifier.

  12. Socrates says:


    I think you really don’t “get it” and are just impugning via innuendo instead of the more forthright criticism of Kristol and Cheney. A foundation of civilized discourse is NOT to question people’s motives. As my student, Aristotle, would say, there is everything wrong about questioning someone’s motives. It is an idle diversion requiring lots of speculation…and fear-projection by the observer. We should examine people’s duties and their conduct. But questioning people’s motives is a hobby for theologians or Stalinists, depending on your tastes.

  13. Anon says:

    “Simply fighting against the Man” is a pretty pure motive to me, and very American.

  14. Anon says:

    respectfully, that makes no sense.

    You seem to be saying, I have no problem with folks who generally railed against the commissions systems, only those who did it on behalf of their client.

    Which seems somewhat antithetical to the purpose of an attorney to advocate not for himself but his client. You’d think you’d be more forgiving of someone who railed on behalf of a client then who railed generally.

    Which leads me to…ahem…question your motives. Is it really all about the clients being alleged terrorists for you?

    The People of the United States operate under a Constitution and Rule of Law. I’d suggest that means that having attorneys questioning whether any system we implement meets those basic underpinnings is not in conflict with the People.

    So you’ve thus far not proven that anyone is motivated by an improper interest, or are in conflict with “The People,” or anyone else.

    I agree with the dead philosopher, trying to question someone’s motives is a waste of time. We don’t even do that at trial. (not neccessary to prove motive, yadda yadda yadda).

  15. Anonymous says:

    You leave out that some of the people who railed against the commissions “on behalf of their clients” were, in hindsight, truer to the Constitution than the government was at the time. How does that conflict with representing the people of the U.S.?

  16. Balkan Ghost says:

    Well done, CAAFloggers. Keep up the good fight.

  17. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Cully certainly doesn’t need me to rise to his defense, but I will anyway. :-) Note that back in 2007, Cully published a letter to the editor in the Washington Post apologizing for his remarks (available here http://www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/freeform/terrorismnews019?OpenDocument). And no offense to my home town, but it’s much more than some weaselly Washington apology.

    The contents of the recent letter signed by Cully and other Bush Administration officials (among others) is perfectly consistent with the principles articulated in Cully’s letter that the Post published in January 2007.

    Like most judge advocates, Cully worked on as both a defense counsel and a prosecutor and he understands the roles of counsel on both sides.

    BZ to Cully and the letter’s other signatories for declaring Keep America Safe’s scurrilous attacks outside the boundaries of rational discourse.

  18. Anon2 says:

    Arguably, questioning the angle or motivations of someone working in government and representing the people is part of engaging in democracy. The fact is, however, Liz Cheney & Crystal are not questioning motives: they are pushing for people to be named and publicly vilified; they are scapegoating to distract the public from “the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history,” (Arthur Schlesinger) which Liz’s father and Crystal’s ilk presided over under the previous administration. We can only hope that the wider public – as demonsrtated by this blog – can see through such base tactics.

  19. Mike says:

    The brooh-ha and self-righteous preening by the defense bar in response to the Keep America Safe is even more pathetic than the ad. From the way some people have reacted to it, you would think the government had locked up the defense lawyers and sentenced them to the gallows.

    If the lawyers at issue had worked as corporate lawyers for oil companies and then gone to work for the EPA, you bet liberal groups would be going nuts. The issue should be about transparency (I seem to remember the President talking about that a lot during the campaign . . . ) and the ad is a distraction from the real concern here.

    And since when did criticism of defense lawyers become unAmerican? I’ve heard some rather weak comparisons to these lawyers and John Adams defending the British after the Boston Massacre (it was a lot worse for Adams, by any stretch of the imagination), but even if that analogy were accurate – so what? Adams was villified, which goes to show that criticism of defense lawyers goes way back. It’s as American as apple pie, and every bit as patriotic as the defense lawyer who defends an accused. The only difference is that the former doesn’t see the need to patronize everyone within earshot about what a service they are performing for the Constitution.

    Defense bar: if you can’t take the criticism, go be a prosecutor.