Ken Starr defends lawyers who represented Gitmo detainees

It started with a political noise machine.  Before their appointments to the U.S. Department of Justice, it seems that several current DOJ lawyers defended Gitmo detainees on a pro bono basis.

Apparently former Vice President Cheney’s daughter, Elizabeth Cheney, is connected to the group that posted this YouTube video smearing lawyers who dared to represent Gitmo detainees.

It’s a bit shameless because Ms. Cheney apparently employs a double standard on terrorism.  It seems amazing that her group attacks Department of Justice Lawyers.  Remember the white supremacist who attacked the Holocaust museum, killing innocents? Ms. Cheney held forth on that one, discounting the connection between “political discourse,” terrorism,  and the white supremacist who shot and killed people there.

Her attack on lawyers who served the system annoyed me to no end. That’s why I was heartened to see this video clip of former Whitewater Special Prosecutor Ken Starr explaining why Cheney and her ilk are so very wrong.

Let’s be clear.  Those who slaughter innocents should be tried. And if convicted they should be punished. But let us not forget that we pride ourselves as being a nation founded on the rule of law.  I suppose Ms. Cheney falls victim of that great myth that anyone accused must be guilty. So if that’s true, had her father been indicted for war crimes, would she simply agree that he was guilty? Of course not.  That can’t really be different because this is a hard case. We either presume innocence, or we don’t. No double standards. No special exceptions for accused terrorists.

Those who presume that anyone at Gitmo is guilty are taking the government at its word.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s such a good idea.  I prefer trials. With evidence. And judges.  Yes, I am totally old fashioned.

Rev 10 March 2010

Jury trials for accused terrorists

Politicians bowing to the infernal media noise machine appear to be caving on criminal trials for those accused of acts of terror. Gutless. The point is better made here at Defending People, one of my favorite law blogs.

Having never tried a criminal case, I have to disclaim any particular expertise in criminal law.  Even so, as an officer of the court and a believer in the rule of law, I have no doubt that these matters should be tried in court.  I don’t get the rants that I’ve heard on the other side of this. “We’re at war,” or “They don’t deserve these rights” miss the mark.  The same types of arguments were used by some in lame efforts to justify torture.

Let’s be clear about a few things.

For those who claim that we are the greatest country, a shining light of freedom, a model to nations, shouldn’t we live up to all of those exceptional traits? One of the foundations of our exceptional country is a system of justice that presumes innocence, demands proof, and punishes wrongdoers. And yet our politicians want to bow to the noise machine and take terror trials away from the courts.

Why should we play into the hands of those who paint our nation as corrupt? Because when we create exceptions for accused terrorists, we do exactly that.

Those who say that there should be an exception for terror trials are stepping down a very steep and slippery slope. I think there should be a special place in hell for those who set out to harm innocents. I imagine we all agree that that’s true of terrorists. And pedophiles. And greedy corporate executives who steal and defraud. And government officials who abuse their powers. If there is a terrorist exception to our justice system, shouldn’t there be one for all of these others?

“But that’s different,” some would say. The only difference is the label given by the government and the media.  I am unwilling to agree that our government and our media will act rationally. The other thing that’s interesting is that we’ve tried terrorists in criminal courts before. Or have we all forgotten Oklahoma City and Timothy McVeigh? As I recall, the system worked.

I don’t mean to take lightly these issues. To do so does a disservice to those who perished in the World Trade Center attack and those who survived. Nor do I mean to give aid and comfort to those who attack us. Not at all. The best revenge is carrying on bravely and as we have in the  past. To take these matters from the courts sends a message to those who are bent on terror that they can succeed at disrupting our society and sowing fear. To quote the idiot noise machine and the politicians who feed it, doing that means that the terrorists have won.