POLITICS

Holder defends DOJ 'kids' who represented Gitmo detainees

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

During his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder became noticeably angry when asked about the controversy over Justice Department employees who represented Guantanamo Bay detainees before joining the Obama administration. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who last year asked Holder for the names of those lawyers and the detainees whom they represented, said he still has not received a complete answer from Holder. Grassley seemed irritated that the Justice Department had confirmed to Fox News the names of some of those lawyers while not responding fully to the Judiciary Committee. "My inquiry seeks to understand who is advising you on these decisions, given the serious impact these issues have on our national security," Grassley said. So he asked a "very simple yes or no question" -- would Holder supply the information?

No, said the attorney general. "With all due respect, senator, and I know that your request comes from what I would call a good place, yours was an honorable request," Holder began. "There has been has been an attempt to take the names of people who represented Guantanamo detainees and to drag their reputations through the mud. There were reprehensible ads used to question their patriotism."

"I'm not going to allow these kids -- I'm not going to be part of that effort," Holder continued. "And so, with all due respect, their names are out there now. The positions that they hold are out there. That's all been placed in the public record. I am simply not going to be a part of that effort…I will not allow their reputations to be besmirched. I will not be a part of that."

Holder's use of the word "kids" to describe the Justice Department lawyers struck some ears as odd. Two of the employees Grassley originally asked about were Principal Deputy Solicitor General, Neal Katyal, who works on terrorism issues despite his previous legal representation of Osama Bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard, and Jennifer Daskal, who serves in the National Security Division after a long history of advocating for detainees at Human Rights Watch. Katyal is 40 years old; Daskal is a couple of years younger.

After Grassley's questioning, Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin thanked Holder for withholding the information from the committee. Praising "the men and women who've had the courage to stand up as professionals," Durbin told Holder: "I think it was a courageous position that you've taken, and the right one…The argument being made from the other side of the aisle, and from their inspiration, Fox News, is that if anybody decides to represent a Guantanamo detainee, they disqualify themselves from future government service, because they can't be trusted."

 

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