In last week's cover story, Jennifer Rubin described the run around she received in response to her Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documentation of recusals by Justice Department lawyers who previously represented Guantanamo detainees. The official responsible for documents from the top offices at DOJ--the attorney general, deputy attorney general, and associate attorney general--told Rubin the documents were not in a readily accessible place, that three individual attorneys' offices would need to be searched, and it would take a total of eight to eleven months to produce them. However, THE WEEKLY STANDARD has now managed to obtain one of these documents--an apparently complete list of the recusals by Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general (the number three attorney in the Justice Department). Covering cases and clients Perrelli or his former law firm (Jenner & Block) worked on, it is six pages long and includes a list of forty-one cases involving former or current Guantanamo detainees.
The document is reproduced here. In an e-mail, Jennifer Rubin explains its significance:
1. It’s a stonewall. The document, I am told, was sent to hundreds of Department attorneys and is readily accessible on the Justice Department's computer server which these attorneys and FOIA officers can review. It would have taken only a few minutes to search for and pull up the document. (Similar lists may exist for the attorney and deputy attorney general as well.) Furthermore, the document is directly responsive to the FOIA request. There is no rational explanation for why such a document could not be promptly released. The "most transparent administration in history" is quite obviously hiding the ball.
2. The number of cases and their importance in the war on terror are staggering. As the number three man in the Justice Department, one of Perrelli's key responsibilities is supervision of the civil division which has been handling hundreds of habeas corpus cases from Guantanamo. That the administration would have selected someone who is effectively benched from key national security cases raises a key question: who is supervising these cases and making Department policy? As I detailed in my article, many key members of the civil division have also been recused from detainee cases. The attorney general was presumably recused from cases he or his firm (Covington and Burlington) worked on, as was the now-departed number two person in Justice (who previously worked for Wilmer Hale, which also represented detainees). Are key decisions of the Justice Department being made by low-level attorneys with no accountability to the higher appointees?
3. The same concern I raised with regard to attorneys in the civil division--whether attorneys with involvement in so many detainees cases should be making policy or handling any matter pertaining to terrorist and terror suspects, even if they have recused themselves from individual cases in which they had been involved--is especially acute when an official at this level has connections to dozens of cases. Has Perrelli, for example, also recused himself from additional cases in which common witnesses appear? Has he recused himself from policy decisions that would affect the outcome in the cases from which he’s recused himself? We don't know--because the Justice Department's stonewall continues.