Washington Prowler

Nameless Abettors

The administration is reluctant to identify the lawyers in its employ who previously provided legal counsel to suspected terrorists and enemy combatants.

By 3.1.10

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One reason for the ongoing battle between Sen. Chuck Grassley and the Department of Justice over the identities of as many as 13 to 16 current Obama Administration political appointees who provided legal counsel to suspected or convicted terrorists and enemy combatants being held in detention, is not so much what these lawyers did before joining the administration. Rather, says a Department of Justice source, it stems from the administration's own attempts to identify any official paper or email trails of those DOJ attorneys that would reveal not just past but current efforts -- since their appointment, in other words -- to influence administration or department policies on the legal treatment of suspected or indicted terrorists and enemy combatants.

The most intensive review of documents over the past several weeks, says the source, has focused on the little known Law and Policy office, which resides in the National Security Division inside the department. The NSD, parts of which had previously resided inside the Criminal Division, also houses an Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. "When some of these political appointees came into the Administration, I think it was safe to say that there was keen interest on their part to influence policy here," says the source. "At the highest level, people want to know how big a mess this really is. Were there emails or memos shared among the political appointees or the NSD staff that could create problems for us, for example."

Grassley has for months been requesting the names and positions of all Obama Department of Justice attorneys -- almost all of them political appointees -- who prior to joining the administration worked directly or indirectly for suspected terrorists or enemy combatants. On February 19, Grassley received a five-page letter from Attorney General Eric Holder's office claiming that at least nine lawyers at the department either represented detainees or worked on amicus briefs on detainees' behalf. But the letter did not reveal the names of those lawyers.

But DOJ sources say there may be as many as 16 political appointees -- including Holder -- who represented detainees, worked on or signed onto amicus briefs on detainees' behalf, or provided legal counsel to organizations that actively sought to reverse Bush Administration anti-terrorist and detainee policies. These groups included the leftist organizations Human Rights Watch and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Those names, sources say, may include:

• Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a partner at Jenner & Block and former classmate of Barack Obama's at Harvard who was brought in to serve as chief counsel to Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.

Brian Hauck and Donald Verrilli, both of whom worked with Perrelli at Jenner & Block, are also senior officials at DOJ; Hauck is counsel to the associate attorney general; Verrilli's portfolio as associate deputy attorney general includes advising on national security matters.

Lanny Breuer, Holder's former partner at Covington & Burling, and current head of the DOJ's criminal division.

Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, who represented "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, and has strong ties to leftist former Democrat House member and current Oakland mayor, Ron Dellums.

• NSD attorney Jennifer Daskal, who served as a senior counsel for Human Rights Watch.

• Principal deputy solicitor general Neal Katyal, who served as lead counsel for the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

(Both Daskal and Katyal were cited by Grassley's staff in a letter to Holder on this issue back in November.)

James Garland, another Covington & Burling former partner, who is now Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Attorney General. Garland's duties do not involve national security matters, but he is tasked with advising Holder on all matters related to criminal prosecutions and civil matters that aren't covered by national security. In that capacity, he may have been involved in deciding how the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab was dealt with once it was determined he would be tried in criminal court.

Others may include John Bies (another Covington refugee), and Stuart Delery, Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Deputy Attorney General (and a former partner at Wilmer Hale, the home of former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick, who in 1995 put in place the policies that limited the ability of criminal investigators from accessing intelligence agency materials to investigate and possibly prevent terrorist acts). More junior advisers to senior officials at DOJ, as designated by the "counsel" title as compared to the more senior "counselor," are Eric Columbus, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General (a Wilmer alum), who worked on the Supreme Court case, Boumediene v. Bush, which established that detainees had the right to access U.S. courts, Chad Golder, Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General (Wilmer associate), and Aaron Lewis, counsel to the Attorney General (another Covington alum). Jonathan Cedarbaum, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel (who served as a Chief of Staff to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia). Another senior political appointee with an interest in the issues in question may be Rajesh De, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy, who prior to joining a D.C. law firm worked on the 9/11 Commission as a legal counsel.

Ironically, say DOJ sources, while Holder and his staff continue to work hard to protect the identities of those attorneys who provided legal advice to suspected or convicted terrorists, several of the attorneys in question are believed to have been instrumental in the efforts of Human Rights Watch and CREW to leak to the media and Democrat supporters on Capitol Hill, the names of CIA interrogators of enemy combatants and suspected terrorists, as well as the locations of foreign-based U.S. secure holding facilities and various interrogation techniques used on terror suspects and enemy combatants. 

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