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Liz Cheney: Taking flak from the right as well as the left

Dick Cheney's daughter Liz has become a political lightning rod. Now she's going after Justice Department lawyers who represented terrorist suspects. Not all conservatives are happy with that.

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One of these is Peter D. Keisler, assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, who argued in court against lawsuits filed by Guantánamo detainees.

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“There is a longstanding and very honorable tradition of lawyers representing unpopular or controversial clients,” Mr. Keisler told the New York Times. “The fact that someone has acted within that tradition, as many lawyers, civilian and military, have done with respect to people who are accused of terrorism – that should never be a basis for suggesting that they are unfit in any way to serve in the Department of Justice.”

John Adams defended 'enemy combatants'

Others point out that Guantánamo detainees have been defended by lawyers in the firm of that notorious Al Qaeda sympathizer Rudy Giuliani. (Reaching even farther back into US history, others note that founding father John Adams defended the British soldiers who took part in the Boston Massacre.)

John Bellinger III, a former legal adviser to Bush administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, says “We’ve had a long-standing tradition in our country for lawyers to represent unpopular causes, and they shouldn’t be attacked for doing so.”

Given the political rancor that continues in the wake of (and years after) 9/11 and the Iraq war, none of this is surprising. Nor is it particularly new.

Theodore Olson, solicitor general in the Bush administration (whose wife was killed in the 9/11 attack) addressed the subject in a 2007 article he cowrote for a legal journal.

"The ethos of the bar is built on the idea that lawyers will represent both the popular and the unpopular, so that everyone has access to justice. Despite the horrible Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, this is still proudly held as a basic tenet of our profession," Olson wrote. "When government officials are called 'war criminals' and when public-interest lawyers are called 'terrorist huggers,' it not only cheapens the discourse, it scrambles the dialogue.... And the heavy work of creating solutions for these complicated issues can only move forward when the name-calling ceases."

Back to John Adams. In his diary, he described his defense of the British soldiers as “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.” Not bad company for the "Al Qaeda Seven."

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