One of the latest blasts from what former conservative pollitical operative David Brock termed the Republican noise machine concerns the ACLU’s John Adams Project which provides lawyers to detainees in Guantanamo. Yesterday Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R-2nd), who seemingly has never encountered a rightwing smear that he doesn’t want to spread, rushed in to grab a megaphone in the service of the cause.
This time the sound and fury signifying nothing concerns the discovery of photographs of CIA torturer/interrogators in the cells of Guantanamo detainees. The initial, legitimate concern was whether or not the identities of CIA operatives were illegally disclosed by lawyers from the John Adams Project.
In the aftermath of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, which seems to have concluded that no laws were broken, the emphasis shifted to rightwing accusations that some of the DOJ investigators’ past associations may have biased their findings. As a consequence, a famously disinterested outside investigator, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been brought in to review the findings. The upshot is that the situation is under control and proceeding according to the appropriate laws and regulations.
If I, a simple citizen with no congressional research staff or interns to help me investigate, can glean this fact from simply looking at newspaper reportage, why does our boy Todd feel the need to send a bombastic letter – signed by 47 Republican Representatives, including Missouri’s Blaine Luetkemeyer and Sam Graves – to the DOJ:
It has come to our attention that the Justice Department is investigating a group of lawyers associated with the American Civil Liberties Union and self-identifying as the “John Adams Project”. We understand that these lawyers may have intentionally revealed the identify of covert CIA operatives – in clear violation of federal law – to members of Al Queda currently held at Guantanamo Bay. If true, these individuals were assisting our sworn enemies – terrorists who have attached our nation and our allies repeatedly.
… In particular we urgently request that you provide a full accounting to Congress of any indiviudals formerly or currently working for the federal government who are connected to the John Adams Project.
Where to start with this self-important drivel? Why kick up a ruckus at this relatively late date when most of the facts are right out there in the open? Perhaps Akin and pals are trying to gin up a witch hunt to keep the fringewing rabble amused?
Of course, as Emptywheel notes, there is more going on here than meets the eye. Scandal-mongering this issue is a way to hobble detainees’ lawyers’ efforts to mount a defense by making it impossible to call witnesses. It also serves the CIA’s desire to deflect attention from the question of its interrogation (i.e., torture) methods; and, finally, it has the potential to erode the “DOJ’s prosecutorial independence such that it cannot try any torture cases … .”
The role of Todd Akin in this nasty little smear campaign should make Missourians very ashamed. It should also leave Mr. Akin, if he has any integrity at all, feeling at least a little troubled since he takes every opportunity he can find to sententiously proclaim his devotion to the constitution. As a New York Times editorial writer put it:
It is not the first time that the right has tried to distract Americans from the real issues surrounding detention policy by attacking lawyers. …
If lawyers who take on controversial causes are demonized with impunity, it will be difficult for unpopular people to get legal representation – and constitutional rights that protect all Americans will be weakened. That is a high price to pay for scoring cheap political points.