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Additional Justice Department appointees with past detainee work identified

The agency releases the names of seven more officials after GOP lawmakers said the connections raised serious questions on Obama's policies. Two appointees had previously been named.

March 04, 2010|By Richard A. Serrano

Reporting from Washington — The Justice Department identified seven additional political appointees Wednesday who had done prior legal work on behalf of captives in the war on terrorism, after GOP lawmakers accused the Obama administration of stacking the department with top officials sympathetic to "enemy combatants."

Matthew Miller, a senior spokesman at the Justice Department, said the names were not released earlier because "we will not participate in an attempt to drag people's names through the mud for political purposes."

In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers have voiced strong concerns about conflicts of interest for Justice Department officials who previously represented detainees. But Miller insisted that the political appointees with experience working for captives at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will recuse themselves if a conflict surfaces. Some Justice Department officials during the George W. Bush administration also had done legal work for detainees.

The Obama appointees identified Wednesday:

Jonathan Cedarbaum, in the Office of Legal Counsel, and Eric Columbus, who works under the deputy attorney general, were part of a legal defense team for Bosnian Algerian detainees and brought a case to the Supreme Court that resulted in the right of captives to challenge their detention.

Karl Thompson, now in the Office of Legal Counsel, helped represent Omar Khadr, a youth captured after a firefight in Afghanistan in which a soldier was killed by a hand grenade.

Joseph Guerra, principal deputy associate attorney general, worked on legal briefs on behalf of Jose Padilla, accused of plotting a "dirty-bomb" attack.

Tali Farhadian, who works in Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.'s office, contributed to appellate briefs for Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a Qatari student designated an enemy combatant when he was about to go trial on fraud charges in Illinois.

Beth Brinkmann, a deputy assistant attorney general, collaborated on Supreme Court briefs for detainees and advocated more protection of detainees' rights.

Tony West, an assistant attorney general who heads the Civil Division, served on the legal team for John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban who was captured in Afghanistan.

Earlier identified were Neal Katyal, principle deputy solicitor general, who won a Supreme Court victory for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, former driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden; and Jennifer Daskla, former senior counsel for Human Rights Watch, who now serves as an attorney in the Justice Department's National Security Division.


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