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ABA Prez Defends Lawyers Dubbed ‘Al Qaeda Seven’

Posted Mar 4, 2010 5:10 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: ABA President Carolyn Lamm on Thursday criticized efforts to smear the reputation of Justice Department lawyers who at one point represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

"Impugning the character of lawyers who have sought to protect the fundamental rights of unpopular clients is a divisive and diversionary tactic," Lamm said in a statement released to TPMmuckraker, which has been covering a conservative push to learn the names of administration lawyers who worked on detainee cases.

In a later statement (JPG), Lamm cited ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(b): "A lawyer’s representation of a client does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.”

For months, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, been seeking the names of DOJ lawyers who represented Guantanamo detainees in their prior legal practices. His quest is part of a growing conservative movement that is critical of the lawyers’ past work, the Washington Post reports.

Among the critics is a group called Keep America Safe. This week, the group released a controversial YouTube video in which it labeled the Justice Department as "DOJ: Department of Jihad?" and asks, "Who are these government officials? … Whose values do they share?" The video sought the names of lawyers dubbed "the Al Qaeda Seven."

The names of those who helped defend accused terrorists or who worked on their legal briefs were released by the Justice Department on Tuesday, report the Los Angeles Times and ABC News.

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that the names weren’t released earlier because “we will not participate in an attempt to drag people's names through the mud for political purposes." The statement added that “Department of Justice attorneys work around the clock to keep this country safe, and it is offensive that their patriotism is being questioned."

Lamm reacted to the controversy and the video by defending the lawyers' previous work, noting that "a fundamental tenet of our justice system is that anyone who faces loss of liberty has a right to legal counsel.

"Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government—even to those accused of heinous crimes against this nation in the name of causes that evoke our contempt."

Fox News named each of the lawyers and who they represented. In addition to well-known Guantanamo detainee lawyers such as Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal and National Security Division Attorney Jennifer Daskal, Fox noted that the Bush administration hired detainee lawyers who now work in the Justice Department.

Orin Kerr, in a post at The Volokh Conspiracy, observed: "As far as I can tell, all seven are prominent appellate lawyers who were at big law firms in D.C. that participated in the tres chic pro bono project of the Bush era by representing Guantanamo detainees. Interestingly, most are former Supreme Court clerks."

Last updated March 5 to include Lamm's more recent statement.

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