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The ACLU and Human Rights Watch Rally to Holder’s Defense

3:07 PM, Mar 7, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The American Civil Liberties Union has an amusing full-page ad in the New York Times today (p. 8 of the Week in Review section). It morphs a photo of their onetime favorite, Barack Obama into...George W. Bush! What has President Obama done to deserve this comparison, the greatest insult the left has its disposal? “Many of us are shocked and concerned that right now, President Obama is considering reversing his attorney general’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in criminal court.”

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch Rally to Holder’s Defense

Well, get ready for more shock and concern, ACLUers -- it’s going to happen. President Obama (aided by his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel), is coming to realize how foolish he’s been to delegate so much authority on war on terror matters to his hapless attorney general and the left-wingers working for him at the Justice Department. He is going to reverse course on the KSM trial -- as he has on preventive detention and on the release of photos of alleged abuse by U.S. servicemen, and as I suspect he ultimately will on closing Guantanamo.

Speaking of those working at Justice: THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that another left-wing advocacy group, Human Rights Watch, is circulating a letter condemning what the letter describes as “a shameful series of attacks on attorneys in the Department of Justice who, in previous legal practice, either represented Guantanamo detainees or advocated for changes to detention policy.” The Human Rights Watch letter mischaracterizes the “attacks” as saying “that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees.” In fact, the main issues in the debate have been whether Congress and the public are simply entitled to know who these lawyers are, and the question of whether former pro bono lawyers for terrorists should be working on detainee policy for the Justice Department. (Disclosure: I’m a board member of Keep America Safe, chaired by Liz Cheney, which has been involved in these dastardly “attacks”--in particular an Internet ad at the beginning of last week pressing Attorney General Holder to disclose the identities of seven DOJ appointees who were known (and celebrated by the left at the time) for advocating for or representing al Qaeda detainees before joining the administration, but who had suddenly become shrinking violets now that they are working for the U.S. government.)

Now Human Rights Watch has had a rough few months, as they have dealt with one scandal and embarassment after another—a strong public denunciation by their founder in the pages of the New York Times, revelations about fundraising in Saudi Arabia on the basis of their criticism of Israel, their senior Middle East analyst forced to resign when it was revealed he was an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia. They’re trying to rehabilitate themselves, and are therefore desperately trying to get every establishment Republican lawyer in town to sign the letter they’re circulating. Knowing establishment lawyers, I’m sure they’ll get a few -- the legal fraternity doesn’t like criticism of lawyers. That’s fine. If all this hubbub is the price we have to pay for the Obama administration adopting more responsible detainee policies that will do a little more to keep America safe, it’s worth it.

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