The lawyers have a problem

A group called Keep America Safe has released a video questioning the values of a number of lawyers now working in the Justice Department because of their pro bono work for Gitmo detainees. That has the lawyer community up in arms in protest. It also has the Democrats using the opportunity to sling mud at Republicans. Devin Garret describes the scene as Critics of Justice lawyers under fire.

A conservative group’s bashing of several Obama administration lawyers as the “al Qaeda Seven” has struck a nerve in the U.S. legal community, prompting even some fellow Republicans to denounce the group’s attack.

Orin Kerr and commenters at the Volokh Conspiracy show the nerve at Lawyers, Treason, and Deception: A Response to Andrew McCarthy.

The questioning is indeed a ‘guilt by association’ effort. Where the lawyers have a problem is in that the number of Al Qaeda pro bono lawyers in the Justice Department is disproportionate and the matters of detainee status and warfare are not as settled in the public mind as some lawyers may think. The lawyers see the pro bono effort as equivalent to representing indigent criminals or other citizens who need legal remedies. They have questions about whether there is a war on or not – even if the courts have pretty much said the US is indeed in a state of war. Then there is the problem of the status of the detainees which has been clouded by legal attacks and assaults that also offend much of the public.

What Keep America Safe is saying is not only that the Justice Department may have a bias when it comes to national security, the legal community needs to take a careful look at its own predispositions and biases. You can indeed go too far on well meaning do-good efforts and if you don’t understand the boundaries, they will find you.

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