By Frank James

Is it too much in Washington's partisan hothouse to ask that political attacks be logical? Apparently so.

The latest example of political illogic comes from a group called "Keep America Safe." on whose board serves Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president.

KAS has an ad in which it asks the Attorney General Eric Holder to reveal the identity of seven Justice Department officials who represented Guantanamo detainees. Holding nothing back, the ad calls the Justice Department lawyers "the al-Qaeda 7."

Over the sound of haunting movie soundtrack, the ad's narrator asks:

So who did President Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder hire? Attorneys who represented or advocated for terrorist detainees. Who are these government officials? Eric Holder will only name two. Why the secrecy behind the other seven? Whose values do they share? Tell Eric Holder, Americans have a right to know the identities of the al-Qaeda 7.

If the music doesn't get you, the ad makers hope the ghostly figure of Osama bin Ladin waving behind the silhouettes of seven lawyers

The ad makers seem blithely unaware that it is the tradition in American justice that all accused, including the most odious, deserve legal representation. That's the only way our adversarial legal system can work.

It's also a long held value in the American system that the actions of the accused, no matter how heinous, aren't imputed to their lawyers. We tend not to attribute the alleged guilt of the defendant to their lawyers. We don't blame the lawyers who represent accused child killers are themselves fans of infanticide.

So it's a fairly perverse argument for the ad makers to suggest that lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees share the values of al-Qaeda terrorists. Some might even call it a ridiculous line of reasoning.

Which probably explains why even some conservatives want no part of this particular attack.

KAS has every right to ask for the identities of the seven lawyers. That's not the issue.

The problem is that KAS seems at war with an idea bigger than the seven lawyers, the idea that every accused deserves representation. Is that what KAS really believes?

If KAS wants to keep America safe from something, how about protecting us from the kind of illogic in its ad.

categories: Terrorism

3:49 - March 5, 2010