The Corner

Andy McCarthy Said “No” to the Justice Department Today

Read this letter that went to the Obama administration this morning.

After being invited by the administration to be a prop in the interrogation debate, the National Review Institute’s former federal prosecutor provides a clear, instructional dissent:

I must decline the invitation to participate in the May 4 roundtable meeting the President’s Task Force on Detention Policy is convening with current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases.  An invitation was extended to me by trial lawyers from the Counterterrorism Section, who are members of the Task Force, which you are leading. The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants—or what the Department now calls “individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations.”  I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith.  Nevertheless, it is quite clear—most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany—that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States).  Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues.  I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president’s first obligation to protect the American people.  Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

He writes that:

in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers—like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy—may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct.  Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

And gives them something to work with:

Given your policy of conducting ruinous criminal and ethics investigations of lawyers over the advice they offer the government, and your specific position that the wartime detention I would endorse is tantamount to a violation of law, it makes little sense for me to attend the Task Force meeting.  After all, my choice would be to remain silent or risk jeopardizing myself.

For what it may be worth, I will say this much.  For eight years, we have had a robust debate in the United States about how to handle alien terrorists captured during a defensive war authorized by Congress after nearly 3000 of our fellow Americans were annihilated.  Essentially, there have been two camps.  One calls for prosecution in the civilian criminal justice system, the strategy used throughout the 1990s.  The other calls for a military justice approach of combatant detention and war-crimes prosecutions by military commission.  Because each theory has its downsides, many commentators, myself included, have proposed a third way: a hybrid system, designed for the realities of modern international terrorism—a new system that would address the needs to protect our classified defense secrets and to assure Americans, as well as our allies, that we are detaining the right people.

The letter is chilling and impressive in its seriousness. It’s a marked contrast from what I’ve seen from some of those who have the wheel. Please do read.

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