Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eric Holder Has Lost Me Again

Here’s Josh Gerstein’s summary of the state of play respecting Republican efforts to get the Justice Department to disclose the names of Department attorneys who’ve defended alleged terrorists. Can someone explain to me what Eric Holder was thinking when he decided to disclose that there are nine such attorneys but not to disclose the names of seven of them?

Let’s concede at the outset that the Republicans have resorted to a cynical political maneuver. But demanding the disclosure of information that embarrasses the administration is standard operating procedure for the congressional opposition. The way the partisan game is played, the opposition’s entitled to do that sort of thing so long as it can come up with a serviceable pretext that it’s part of congressional oversight. This David Davenport piece shows that the Republicans don’t lack for pretexts.

So it’s more than a little over-the-top for people like Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress to call the Republican maneuver “pure McCarthyism." Yes, it’s wrong to insinuate disloyalty on the part of lawyers who donate their time and their skill to the legal defense of unpopular people. But Joe McCarthy didn’t insinuate anything; he accused unnamed people in the State Department of treason. All Chuck Grassley is doing is asking for the names of people who performed a public service in accordance with the highest ideals of the legal profession.

Cabinet-level appointees are supposed to be able to deal with such things without compounding the administration’s embarrassment. Holder should at least be able to explain why, if representing Gitmo prisoners is as admirable as we liberals believe, he’s unwilling to identify the people who did it. Instead we get this non sequitur from a Justice Department spokesman:

“As we noted in a letter to Senators, the Justice Department's attorneys are subject to ethics and disclosure rules as required under both Department guidelines and this administration's own ethics rules, which are the strongest in history. One week after this Department secured a guilty plea from Najibullah Zazi for attempting to attack the New York subway system and indicted two of his co-conspirators for their alleged role in that attack, it should be clear that fighting terrorism and keeping the American people safe is our number one priority.”
I don't get it.

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