Pro Bono

‘Al Qaeda Seven’ or ‘Patriots’? AG Defends Lawyers in Apparent Rebuttal

Attorney General Eric Holder is defending lawyers who represent unpopular clients in a speech delivered just two weeks after a conservative group criticized Justice Department lawyers who previously defended Guantanamo detainees.

The group known as Keep America Safe had dubbed the lawyers “the Al Qaeda Seven.”

Speaking Friday as he received an award from the Pro Bono Institute, Holder said lawyers for unpopular clients are “patriots,” according to Fox News and Politico.

Holder didn’t mention Guantanamo explicitly, but his remarks were clearly aimed at Keep America Safe, Politico says.

“Those who reaffirm our nation’s most essential and enduring values do not deserve to have their own values questioned,” Holder said in his remarks. “Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are, and should be treated as what they are: patriots.”

ABA President Carolyn Lamm has also defended the lawyers, citing an ABA model ethics rule that says a lawyer’s representation of a client does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s views or activities. “Impugning the character of lawyers who have sought to protect the fundamental rights of unpopular clients is a divisive and diversionary tactic,” she said in a statement released earlier this month.

In a response to Holder’s remarks, Keep America Safe executive director Aaron Harison said in a statement sent to Politico, ” ‘Unpopular’ is not the word most Americans would use to describe terrorists waging war against the United States.” He said Americans have a right to know whether the lawyers who defended detainees are now setting detainee policy.

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