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.
Cully Stimson, former deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs in the Bush administration, raised the question whether big law firms like Jenner and Block and Covington and Burling should devote so many millions of dollars to terrorist causes without raising legitimate questions for other paying clients who were effectively subsidizing the terrorist work. Stimson was right, even if those who should have defended him didn’t. But the question first raised by Stimson years ago has grown even more acute.
Should lawyers who represented America’s terrorist enemies be allowed anywhere close to government jobs that set terrorist policies?
Should attorneys like Ian Gershengorn get a free pass for possible failures to properly recuse themselves from terrorist cases?
And why shouldn’t representing the mortal enemies of America ultimately disqualify you from serving as counsel for the United States, especially counsel over terrorist policy?
In another era, representing the most dangerous enemies of America would not have served as a ticket to a high ranking job as it seems to in President Obama’s Justice Department. As I told Fox on Sunday, “it would have disqualified you.”
But watch the reactionary defenders crow how inappropriate it is to ask these questions, as they have since the 1930s anytime someone asks.
Such moral equivocation has been used to justify a long line of apologists for America’s enemies. Among the favorite fables of the Left is that America’s enemies aren’t as bad as many think, and (usually) left-leaning Americas surely aren’t in league with these enemies. We heard this about the Rosenbergs for decades – until the poor innocent husband and wife team were revealed in KGB files to be anything but.
None of this is to suggest that Tony West is in league with al-Qaeda. I raise the history of enemy infiltration, and more importantly how the infiltrator’s advocates behaved, for the singular purpose of reminding us of the reflexive left-wing defense that has long protected those working with our enemies. Expect more of the same.
The New York Times even had a Pulitzer Prize-winning defender on staff.
But why would President Obama elevate to the #3 position at the Justice Department a person who has Tony West’s background? Even more disturbing, why would Obama place such a person in charge of GITMO policy?
For other examples of radical attorneys Eric Holder has brought into the Department of Justice, I name many names in my book Injustice. The Pulitzer-nominated PJ Media Every Single One series provides the backgrounds of 113 attorneys hired into the Obama Civil Rights Division. You’ll see that the West promotion is nothing unusual inside this DOJ.