Is Neal Katyal a Terrorist Sympathizer?

Neal Katyal is not a terrorist sympathizer. | Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanprogress/3444974909/">Center for American Progress</a> (<a href="http://www.creativecommons.org">Creative Commons</a>).

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Last week, I received an email that tried to argue that Obama Justice Department officials who represented terrorism suspects in their (often successful) suits against the government are “terrorist sympathizers”:

Commander Kirk S. Lippold, former Commander of the USS Cole and Senior Military Fellow at Military Families United released the following statement regarding Attorney General Eric Holder’s admission that nine or more DOJ employees currently setting policy on enemy combatants have defended terrorists prior to joining the Department: ?

“I was deeply troubled today by Attorney General Eric Holder’s admission that at least nine or more employees of the Department of Justice used to defend the terrorists in our own court system. These same employees now set our nation’s policy on terrorist detainees. To move from defending terrorists in court to setting national security policy for detainees at the Department of Justice is an inexcusable breach of ethics and common sense.”

This attack is focusing on people like Neal Katyal, the lawyer who won Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the case that struck down the Bush administration’s military commissions system.

Is beating the Bush administration in court an offense that should disqualify someone from government service? Of course it isn’t. This whole situation is, of course, ridiculous. The main line of attack is fatally flawed. No one wants to “defend terrorists.” The people in the Obama DOJ who once fought the Bush administration on detainee issues were defending terrorist suspects—people who had been accused by the government of planning committing terrorist acts. And a lot of those folks turned out not to be terrorists.

Spencer Ackerman is somewhat more colorful in condemning this smear job. In a post titled, “And Oh By The Way, Did You Notice NEAL KATYAL ISN’T WHITE?????,” Spencer writes:

This “Gitmo Nine” fucking bullshit is beneath the dignity of all thinking people. There is not a single shameful thing about representing a Guantanamo detainee. And singling out Neal Katyal — only a fucking tool or a racist will deny the racial overtones in suggesting that brown man at the Justice Department is a terrorist sympathizer. Katyal is a proponent of creating national-security courts, for Christ sake, something absolutely appalling to civil libertarians.

Between this situation and the rejection of Craig Becker, a nominee for the National Labor Relations Board, because he was too “pro-labor,” you’re seeing right into the heart of what Washington is like. Members of Congress like to pretend that their opposition to various nominees are appointees is based on concerns about those people’s qualifications or temperment. Sometimes, those concerns are real. But most of the time, Republicans oppose Democratic appointees and Democrats oppose Republican appointees because they disagree with the appointees’ politics. Many people would argue that there’s nothing wrong about fighting for labor unions or representing a Guantanamo detainee. But in some Republican circles, doing either could make you a pariah.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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