Enough to make an attorney general laugh

ENOUGH TO MAKE AN ATTORNEY GENERAL LAUGH…. Attorney General Eric Holder talked to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, primarily about the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators in federal court. It didn’t go especially well — Republicans on the panel didn’t seem persuaded — but Dahlia Lithwick highlighted the most troubling aspect of the Q&A.

Specifically, some GOP senators are concerned that some Justice Department officials, including the attorney general himself, may actually be terrorist sympathizers.

[Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa] demanded that Holder explain the presence in the solicitor general’s office of Neal Katyal, who represented Osama Bin Laden’s driver at the Supreme Court. Grassley used a smear from the New York Post (penned by the writer who ridiculously claimed Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh believed “Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts”) to demand that Holder account for Jennifer Daskal as counsel in its National Security Division, who allegedly wants terrorists to have more time to write poetry. Grassley demanded that Holder produce a list of DoJ appointees who have ever acted as lawyers for terror detainees.

Then Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., read from an editorial suggesting that the reason these detainee trials have been so long delayed is all the “leftist lawyers” who stalled the military commissions by challenging them in the courts. Kyl noted many of those lawyers — including Holder — work for the Justice Department despite the fact that Holder’s firm, Covington & Burling, “volunteered its services to at least 18 of America’s enemies in lawsuits they brought against the American people.” Remember in 2006 when the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, Cully Stimson, had to resign his position at the Pentagon for urging U.S. corporations to boycott any law firm that defended terror suspects? Apparently those law firms are still un-American, and anyone associated with them should be barred from DoJ. (The subtext for much of this criticism, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., observed, is that all these lawyers are somehow in it for the money.)

Holder, quite literally, blurted “Hah” in response to this line of questioning, before patiently explaining to Republicans how misguided the argument is.

Lithwick concluded, “[W]hen you continue to hear that anyone who objects to Bush’s detainee policies is unworthy to serve in government, or is part of some elaborate conspiracy to free terrorists, there is truly nothing left to do but laugh.”

The appeal of McCarthyism lingers on.