President Obama has promoted Tony West to the number three job at the Department of Justice – associate attorney general. The former Civil Division head will oversee a wide array of issues, including enforcement of federal election laws in the 2012 presidential election, but also GITMO detainee policy. Before coming to the Justice Department, West and his San Francisco law firm represented some of the most radical Islamic terrorist causes, including the American Taliban John Walker Lindh.
West’s firm also was involved in the case of Mohamed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan, effectively attacking the CIA high value detainee rendition program. They also assisted the defense of Mohammed Al Qahtani, considered the 20th hijacker. But naturally, you won’t learn any of this in Sari Horwitz’s Washingon Post announcement of West’s promotion.
West is not alone among new Obama DOJ lawyers who represented radical causes. West brought more members of the al-Qaeda bar with him to the Civil Division at Justice to oversee GITMO policy. As Jennifer Rubin has reported at the Weekly Standard, West also failed to recuse himself, it seems, from terrorist cases his firm worked on even after West arrived at the Justice Department.
Most disturbing of all, Rubin reports that these members of the GITMO bar which West placed in charge of GITMO policy may have failed to recuse themselves sufficiently. Rubin:
Other attorneys in the civil division who came from firms that represented detainees—such as Brian Martinez (West’s chief of staff), Geoffrey Graber (counsel to the assistant attorney general), and Ian Gershengorn (West’s deputy in charge of the Federal Programs Branch, which handles habeas petitions)—recused themselves from individual cases where their former firms represented detainees. Gershengorn, however, continued to play a role in setting policy on issues relating to his prior cases. In an email dated July 14, 2009, he wrote, “I have realized that, while I can discuss policy issues arising from substantial support etc., I cannot work directly on the brief because it is one of the Boumediene cases, and Jenner had an amicus brief in that case.” (This begs the question of who, if anyone, was supervising the habeas petitions and the matters from which the political appointees were recused.)
West’s representation of Lindh, however, is particularly troubling. Even after Lindh was sentenced, and the case was concluded, West made outrageous statements to the Washington Post defending Lindh as a good person. “He’s so intellectually-driven, and he has a wide variety of interests — from English literature to World History to Islamic studies. I truly believe John will have a lot to offer after his incarceration.”
Left-wing defenders like to crow that everyone deserves a right to a lawyer. Fine, but that doesn’t mean you get to work at the Justice Department, and certainly doesn’t mean you should be setting GITMO policy.