Does the U.S. still believe in the Law?
There’s a great deal of news in the media, sparked by Liz Cheney, daughter of VP Cheney, regarding her statements calling the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented Gitmo detainees as “terrorist sympathizers” and the “Al Qaeda 7,” among other epithets. However, our legal system says everyone, regardless of the crimes for which they are charged, should and must be given legal representation. That is one of the most remarkable aspects of our legal system as written into our Constitution.
Ted Olson, who worked for both Reagan and GW Bush, lost his wife in the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, he co-wrote an article for Legal Times in 2007 – when other attorneys for the defense and a judge where being attacked for their defined legal responsibilities – in which (Olson-Katyal1-22-07) he stated:
With the war on terror, which unfortunately may go on for generations, America doesn’t have any margin for error. The legal issues that surround this war are enormously intricate and don’t lend themselves to sloganeering-based solutions. When government officials are called “war criminals” and
when public-interest lawyers are called “terrorist huggers,” it not only cheapens the discourse, it scrambles the dialogue. The best solutions to these difficult problems will emerge only when the best advocates, backed by weighty resources,bring their talents to bear. And the heavy work of creating solutions for these complicated issues can only move forward when the name-calling ceases.
THIS IS REAL PATRIOTISM
An American patriot, John Adams, once defended a group of British soldiers who were accused of killing Americans in what was dubbed the Boston massacre. No one else wanted to take their case, but Adams believed that everyone deserved a fair trial. He and his law practice were threatened, but Adams stood strong. Although he was later elected president, Adams maintained that his defense of the British soldiers was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”
Working as an attorney for the government or on behalf of a detainee pro bono doesn’t make an individual a hero, nor does it insulate the individual from criticism. But such criticism would be more constructive if it focused on the merits of the particular position being argued rather than personally on the advocate.
I realize that Ms. Cheney, who worked in the Bush State Department, seeks to preserve the reputations of her father and herself, but in her attacks against these lawyers she trounces all over the Constitution and our centuries old ideals of juris prudence. It is a basic tenet of our judicial system, stretching back centuries into the English common law, that anyone accused of a crime, regardless of how heinous the crime, has the right to a defense attorney. Our Constitution states “innocent until proven guilty.” The intent of this juris prudence is to protects the innocent from malicious and false attacks such as occurred during the Salem Witch Trials. To give everyone a fair trial, based on the merits and evidence of the case.
Even Hitler’s captured high-ranking minions during the Nuremburg trials were afforded attorneys for the defense. In giving even the worst criminals a chance to defend themselves in a court of law, we defend not only our legal principles but the ancient laws of Moses.
To attack the attorneys who are doing their professional and legally bound duties of being terrorist sympathies – and other foul names – is like accusing the defense attorneys at Nuremburg of being Nazi sympathizers or Jew haters. It is just plain wrong. No two ways about it.
Unfortunately, the media continues to give Ms. Cheney’s radical and flagrant abuse of Constitutional justice air time.
Someone should just tell her to shut up and go home.