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Liz Cheney Accused of McCarthyism

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and co-founder of the advocacy group Keep America Safe, is being criticized on the right for going too far in an ad deeming Justice Department lawyers who represented Guantanamo Bay detainees the "al-Qeada seven" and calling for their identities to be revealed.

After Paul Mirengoff posted on the conservative Power Line blog that "it is entirely inappropriate to suggest that these lawyers share the values of terrorists or to dub the seven DOJ lawyers 'The al Qaeda Seven,'" the Huffington Post reached out to him for further comment.

"It could be worse than some of the assertions made by McCarthy, depending on some of the validity of those assertions," Mirengoff said. "It is just baseless to suggest that [these DoJ officials] share al Qaeda values... they didn't actually say it but I think it was a fair implication of what they were saying."

(Mirengoff wrote after his comments were posted that "the quotes themselves are accurate, but I think the characterization of what I said is somewhat misleading," writing "I don't think I said or implied that the video is comparable to or worse than the totality of what goes by the name of McCarthyism or to the 'crusades' launched by Sen. McCarthy.")

It was not the first time McCarthy had been raised in reference to the video. Ken Gude of the liberal Center for American Progress said the following, according to the Washington Monthly: "This is exactly what Joe McCarthy did. Not kind of like McCarthyism; this is exactly McCarthyism."

"Joseph McCarthy himself couldn't have done a better job of using fear and insinuations to smear his political enemies," added People For the American Way President Michael Keegan. "Most Americans understand that McCarthyism was a shameful chapter in American history, but the Cheney wing of the Republican Party seems to have embraced Senator McCarthy's utter lack of sham."

Asked to comment on the criticism, Keep America Safe Executive Director Aaron Harison said via email "we're asking for transparency."

"The American people have a right to know whether lawyers who used to represent terrorists, including advocating for their immediate release, are now working on detainee issues inside the Department of Justice," he said. "There was no ethical obligation on the part of these lawyers to come to the defense of the terrorists. Attorneys who chose to spend their pro bono hours defending terrorists, many of whom killed Americans, did so voluntarily and that decision rightly raises questions about their judgment. In our system of democracy, the American people have a right to hold a President accountable for the people he hires."

Mirengoff was not the only critic of the video from the right. John Bellinger III, former legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, told the American Prospect that "it's unfortunate that these individuals are being criticized for their past representation. It reflects the politicization and the polarization of terrorism issues."

"We've had a long-standing tradition in our country for lawyers to represent unpopular causes, and they shouldn't be attacked for doing so," said Bellinger.

Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of military commissions under President Bush (who emerged as a critic of the tribunals), said, "This is the typically regressive fear tactic that you expect from anybody named Cheney."

The Keep America Safe spot was prompted by a letter Attorney General Eric Holder sent to Congress saying that nine political appointees in the Obama administration had either provided legal representation for detainees in the prison at Guantanamo Bay or had been involved in some kind of advocacy for them, such as contributing to amicus briefs in detainee-related cases. Holder gave the names of two of those lawyers whose work for the detainees had already been reported but did not release the other names.

A pair of Bush administration officials rallied to the lawyers' defense after the spot was released, with Peter D. Keisler saying "there is a longstanding and very honorable tradition of lawyers representing unpopular or controversial clients."

"The fact that someone has acted within that tradition, as many lawyers, civilian and military, have done with respect to people who are accused of terrorism -- that should never be a basis for suggesting that they are unfit in any way to serve in the Department of Justice," he added.

The Department of Justice released the names of the seven attorneys on Wednesday. Keep America Safe's Harrison responded with a statement saying that "the American people have a right to know whether lawyers who voluntarily flocked to Guantanamo to take up the cause of the terrorists are currently working on detainee issues in President Obama's Justice Department."

"Attorney General Holder's assertion that hiring former terrorist lawyers is just like hiring lawyers who used to defend white collar criminals demonstrates once again that, despite the President's rhetoric, the Obama Administration does not understand the dangers of treating terrorism like a law enforcement matter," he said.

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