March 19th, 2010
05:43 PM ET
11 years ago

Holder defends Justice lawyers who represented detainees

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" 'Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are - and should be treated as what they are - patriots,' Attorney General Holder said Friday."]
Washington (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday declared that Justice Department lawyers, criticized for past representation of Guantanamo Bay prison detainees, are patriots who deserve to be praised.

"Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are - and should be treated as what they are - patriots," Holder told a friendly audience.

The crowd, gathered at a Washington hotel to honor voluntary free legal services for indigent criminal and terror suspects, burst into applause when Holder defended his attorneys.

Holder did not mention the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or al Qaeda by name, nor even refer directly to terrorism, but left no doubt to whom he was referring.

"Lawyers who accept our professional responsibility to protect the rule of law, the right to counsel, and access to our courts - even when this requires defending unpopular positions or clients, deserve the praise and gratitude of all Americans," Holder said. "They also deserve respect. Those who reaffirm our nation's most essential and enduring values do not deserve to have their own values questioned."

Criticism of Holder political appointees who had previously argued on behalf of detainees boiled over when a group led by Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, lashed out at the Obama administration for hiding the identities of the "al Qaeda Seven." The Justice Department has since acknowledged the identities of the Justice officials and noted a long judicial history of representing unpopular defendants.

While Democrats have uniformly denounced the criticism, Republican lawmakers and legal scholars have been divided. Some have charged the appointments reflect a degree of sympathy for the detainees which could impact national security policy. Others have argued that the American legal system necessarily requires able attorneys to advocate for defendants with whom they may have deep philosophical or moral differences.

Filed under: Eric Holder • Guantanamo Bay • Justice Department
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Ohio

    They did their duty. But they cannot and should not be given access to the level of security demanded.

    March 19, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. djnfla

    Let's see...according to Holder, the lawyers who defended terrorists are patriots-but the brave men and women who work for the CIA who interrogated these same terrorists to get information in order to save American lives are investigated like criminals!

    I think we know who the REAL patriots are, it is a shame Holder does not.

    March 19, 2010 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  3. Steve(the uncle tom)

    I defend them too,but my evil twin, Steve,hates him and all Dems.

    March 19, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  4. Jess

    Anolther real winner of an appointee from BHO.

    March 19, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  5. jeff jackson, alabama

    So now political correctness has gone so far
    that our own Attorney General is referring to
    our enemies we are at war with as "UN POPULAR " ???
    GIVE ME A BREAK ...HOLDER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 19, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  6. Julie

    Regardless of political party, in America one is (supposed to be) innocent until proven guilty. Period.

    March 19, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  7. gisher

    John Adams, a founding father, defended British captain Thomas Preston in the Boston Massacre trials in perhaps the earliest example of the long standing legal tradition in this country that everyone will be offered a fair trial and allowed to receive adequate representation.

    There are people who Elizabeth Cheney is pandering to with her video that do not understand the laws and traditions of their own country and this country kindly allows them to vote, without requiring a test of competence or a literacy test. It is a good thing for those people that if they should ever be falsely accused of a crime, they will be protected by the very laws and traditions they ignorantly attack now.

    However, a special dose of shame goes to Liz Chaney, as I am fairly sure she is aware of our history and is merely attempting to exploit the ignorance of others.

    March 19, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  8. Obama the Pathological Liar

    Stay on their good side because in three years YOU will be in Gitmo.

    March 19, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    Patriots? are you kidding me? Liberals love affair with terrorist is unbelievable.

    March 19, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  10. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Yet another in a long line of reasons why Eric Holder should go!

    March 19, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. Willy Brown

    A commie lawyer will defend a commie lawyer even if he's the AG

    March 19, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  12. Tor Lars

    Let me be clear... he sounds just like Obama. Always being "clear" about nonsense.

    These lawyers Volunteered to defend these terrorists. V O L U N T E E R E D. They were not asked to. I think it's horrendous to even want to volunteer, but hey, that's their right. But, to then be hired at the justice department... y'know... the people in charge of prosecuting the same people that they were defending, stinks to high hell. Any sane person would understand this. Ge'ez, what a bunch of fanatics we've got in charge now. It's just plain scary.

    March 19, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Liz Cheney is the spawn of the devil Dick Cheney and should apologize for calling these attorneys terrorist.

    March 19, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  14. ran

    What would you expect from the fear/hate/obstructionist/purity Republicans.

    Everyone is entitled to representation even the terrorist. All those who have been put on trial at the Hague for genocide were given representation.

    This, like the 2 Republican AG who want to file law suites against the health care bill if it passes, just shows the Republicans decision to fear/hate/obstruct/ everything they do not like and to dictate to others how things should be. Does Nazism ring a bell people.

    We need to vote for only true Democrats or Independents in 2010/2012 and send a clear message to the Republicans enough is enough of their purity ideology.

    March 19, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  15. I am the Great and Omnipotent Wizard of Rush and I Say . . .

    Liz Cheney and her daddy are cowards, as is their buddy, Bill "I suck toes"( – no seriously, Google his name and "suck toes") Kristol.

    March 19, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  16. Angi's mom

    These attorneys are doing their duty and deserve our respect, but I wouldn't label any profession as patriotic.

    March 19, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  17. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Hey Elizabeth...what about your dad's own shady group of associates??? Where are the White House visitor logs and whom did he secretly meet with to set energy policy in 2001?

    March 19, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  18. Monkey wrench

    "Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are – and should be treated as what they are – patriots," Holder told a friendly audience.
    Holder is such a typical liberal lawyer, I'll save your sorry worthless guilty A$$, don't say a word, did they read you your rights, it's discrimination!? Oh yes, and the most important aspect of all to a liberal lawyer, don't worry, I'll bill the government for services provided...I'm SUPER PATRIOT...

    March 19, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    Last time I checked, we were still a nation of laws. And that means innocent until proven guilty.

    Liz Cheney, like her father, has a very situational outlook when it comes to our legal system: When her dad was circumventing the Constitution, it was OK because we were "fighting terror" and it was convenient to throw our legal traditions out the window.

    Well, I have news for you, Liz, you may not have the fortitude, patience, wisdom or stomach to live by our laws, but I do and so do the majority of Americans!

    Shame on you and your fear-mongering rhetoric! I'm tired of the bully tactics of your party – you should be ashamed of your behavior!

    March 19, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    If Liz and her dad and all their pinhead followers weren't such hateful, mean-spirited people who continually spit on our Constitution, then the identies of those lawyers upholding our legal traditions by providing counsel to detaineers wouldn't need to be hidden.

    Liz and her dad and their pinhead followers would just love to declare martial law in our country and detain, disappear or worse, everyone who disagrees with their dystopic view of the world. '

    They should all be ashamed of themselves! In my opinion, I think they should all just leave our country and go live under the thumb of a truly oppressive leader in some third-world backwater.

    After they've gained some appreciation for our country's legal traditions, then we'll consider letting them back in .... maybe ...

    March 19, 2010 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. j

    The lawyers who defended detainees were only following an AMERICAN TRADITION of INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY and the RIGHT of the accused TO AN ATTORNEY. Anyone that doesn't understand that doesn't understand some of the core principles on which this country was founded. These attorneys should not in any way be persecuted or harmed for doing what is a job that is guaranteed under the law for any person accused of a crime. If you're going to condemn and accuse these attorneys then you have to accuse all defense attorneys and where would the American justice system be without defense attorneys? Not any place you'd want to go.

    March 19, 2010 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  22. m smith

    We have the best justice system in the world. People like the Chenys and the misguided are the unpatriotic ones. I guess we should just water board everyone. Don't understand people that argue against abortion and for capitol punishment and for a military tribunal but against civilian court.Lets save the babies and water board them then we can execute the ones that don't die from lack of health care. Who cares what Cheny's kid thinks anyway.

    March 19, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. BeverlyNC

    Trying terrorists in our Federal Courts is the RIGHT and most SENSIBLE solutions. Our Prosectors have already convicted 100s of terrorists and have the experience and the wins to back up their handling of these trials.

    Bush did it but now Republicans are screaming lies and fear – hypocrites as always. We need to ignore these stupid desperate Republicans and follow the law.

    Holder is doing the right thing and Americans support your decision and expertise. This is a matter for the Federal Courts. The same Federal Courts who should be trying Bush, Cheney and Rove as war criminals.

    March 19, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  24. JES

    You would but then again no surprise here.

    March 19, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |