Last November Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Attorney General Eric Holder for the names of political appointees who represent detainees or who work for organizations advocating on their behalf. Grassley posed this question after learning about two such appointees; Neal Katyal, who represented Osama bin Laden's driver, and Jennifer Daskal, who advocated for detainees at Human Rights Watch.
Byron York from the Washington Examiner reports that Holder has now given an answer. According to Holder there are nine lawyers who have worked for terrorist detainees before being appointed to the DOJ. Holder only provided the two names that were already known and did not give any information as to what cases these people maybe working on, which detainees they advocated for, or what organizations they previously worked through. Further, the nine attorneys that Holder cites is only from a cursory look at the DOJ, there could be more.
In his response, Holder has given Grassley almost nothing. He says nine Obama political appointees at the Justice Department have advocated on behalf of detainees, but did not identify any of the nine other than the two, Katyal and Daskal, whose names Grassley already knew. "To the best of our knowledge," Holder writes,
during their employment prior to joining the government, only five of the lawyers who serve as political appointees in those components represented detainees, and four others either contributed to amicus briefs in detainee-related cases or were otherwise involved in advocacy on behalf of detainees.
Holder says other Obama appointees, like Holder himself, came from law firms which represented detainees but did no work on behalf of the terrorist prisoners. But other than Katyal and Daskal, Holder does not reveal any names of any Obama appointees, nor does he mention the cases they worked on.
And what are they recused from, anyway? Very little. Holder writes that Katyal has not worked on any Guantanamo detainee matters but has participated in litigation involving detainees who continue to be detained at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan and in litigation involving [Ali Saleh Kahlah] al-Marri, who was detained on U.S. soil." As for Daskal, "she has generally worked on policy issues related to detainees," Holder writes. "Her detainee-related work has been fully consistent with advice she received from career department officials regarding her obligations."
As for everyone else, Holder lists no names and no cases, but in a paragraph filled with modifiers, he makes it clear that all the lawyers who had advocated for detainees are free to work on general detainee matters.
The senior Department officials referenced above, like other political appointees who are similarly situated, have recused from particular matters regarding specific detainees in which their former firms represent the detainee or another party and from decisions relating specifically to the dispositions of particular detainees represented by their former firms. These recusals pertain to decisions relating to particular matters involving specific parties who are or have been represented by their former law firms within the relevant time period. However, as noted above, these senior officials have been authorized to participate in policy and legal decisions regarding detainee matters, in particular matters regarding specific detainees whom their prior employer did not represent, and in decisions relating to the disposition of such detainees. [emphasis added]
Finally, it is possible that there are more than nine political appointees who worked for detainees. Holder tells Grassley that he did not survey the Justice Department as a whole but instead canvassed several large offices within the organization.
Bottom line: Holder revealed no names beyond the two already publicly known. He revealed no cases from which Justice political appointees recused themselves. The letter, which will likely be interpreted on Capitol Hill as a thumb-your-nose statement, is sure to anger Republican senators more than satisfy them. [MORE]
Byron York describes Holder’s response as thumbing his nose at Grassley, and that is pretty much a good description given the vagueness of Holder’s response. What is troubling about these attorneys is the question of where their allegiances lay. Are they truly working to defend U.S. interests or are they still working for terrorist detainees from the other side of the fence?
It seems like a pattern with this administration. They have all these characters in charge of departments, who seem so ill suited for the task at hand (e.g. Tim Geithner the tax cheat heading up the IRS, Harry Knox the anti-Catholic bigot in charge of Religion and Faith Programs and Kevin Jennings a homosexual radical in charge of school safety). Appointing these characters to these departments is almost like some perverted joke at best or a deliberate attempt to undermine these institutions at worst.
I expect we will be hearing more about these nine attorneys in the future.