Holder hasn't revealed Justice Dept lawyers who defended Gitmo detainees 

You may remember that more than two months ago, amid the controversy over the Obama administration's decision to grant full American constitutional rights to, and hold a civilian trial for, accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley asked Attorney General Eric Holder about Justice Department lawyers who before joining the Obama/Holder team had represented Guantanamo detainees or worked for groups representing them. Grassley pointed to one high-ranking Obama Justice official who formerly represented Osama bin Laden's driver and another who works on detainee issues despite previous advocacy for detainees.

"This prior representation, I think, creates a conflict of interest problem for these individuals," Grassley said, adding, "I want to know more about who is advising you on these decisions." Grassley asked Holder to give the committee "the names of political appointees in your department who represent detainees or who work for organizations advocating on their behalf…the cases or projects that these appointees work with respect to detainee prior to joining the Justice Department…and the cases or projects relating to detainees that have worked on since joining the Justice Department."

Holder was noncommittal. "I will certainly consider that request," he said. When Grassley pressed, Holder stood firm. "I will consider that request," he repeated. Later in the hearing, Holder revisited the subject, saying he "didn't mean to be flip" in responding to Grassley but that he wanted to consider possible ethical concerns about attorney-client privilege before agreeing to Grassley's request. Holder never said he would provide the information. A few days later, on November 24, Grassley and the other Republican members of the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Holder citing his "less than encouraging" response and pressing the request for information on the detainee conflicts inside the Department.

Now, two months have passed and the senators have heard nothing. "Sen. Grassley does not have an answer yet," says a Grassley spokesman. "The Justice Department says it's 'in process.'" The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry about the matter Friday, and it is not clear when the Department will answer Grassley's questions.

In the meantime, committee Republicans are starting to wait for Holder's response to another letter, sent yesterday, asking for an explanation of the decision to hold accused al Qaeda Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the civilian justice system instead of as an enemy combatant. Taken together, the inquiries show Republicans growing increasingly assertive about questioning the Obama administration's actions and resolve in fighting what the GOP still calls the War on Terror. Unless Holder can offer convincing explanations for the Department's recent decisions, the questions will keep coming.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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