LIZ CHENEY’S DOJ SMEAR FACES INCREASED BLOWBACK…. Last week, Liz Cheney’s right-wing vehicle, “Keep America Safe,” launched a pretty disgusting smear against nine Justice Department attorneys. The group includes lawyers working in the Department of Justice who fought the Bush administration’s treatment of suspected terrorists as unconstitutional.

The vile attacks from Cheney and her cohorts seek to characterize the attorneys — who actually deserve the nation’s thanks — as terrorist-sympathizing traitors. Keep America Safe’s scurrilous ad asks about the lawyers, “Whose values do they share?”

Last week, Cheney’s efforts faced some pushback from the left and right. Fortunately, the blowback from across the legal establishment is getting more forceful and organized.

A group that includes leading conservative lawyers and policy experts, former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and several senior officials of the last Bush Administration, is denouncing as “shameful” Republican attacks on lawyers who came to the Obama Justice Department after representing suspected terrorists. […]

“We consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications,” wrote the 19 lawyers whose names were attached to the statement as of early Monday.

The statement cited John Adams’s defense of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre to argue that “zealous representation of unpopular clients” is an important American tradition.

The attacks on the lawyers “undermine the Justice system more broadly,” they wrote, by “delegitimizing” any system in which accused terrorists have lawyers, whether civilian courts of military tribunals.

That some of the signatories are Bush administration attorneys who went up against these lawyers in court gives the argument that much more credibility.

In the larger context, Adam Serwer explains why this matters so much: “The reason for the backlash is that the attack on the so-called Gitmo Nine or al-Qaeda Seven wasn’t just an attack on a handful of liberal lawyers, it was an attack on the American system of justice, suggesting that certain classes of people aren’t entitled to robust legal representation and that those who chose to represent them in order to ensure due process are America’s enemies. If anyone can be denied due process, than all of us can be denied due process. The people at KAS, for whatever reason, are incapable of looking beyond their political self-interest and are willing to cannibalize the very institutions of American democracy in order to gain political ground against their political targets.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.