A former Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle on his department's policies is now questioning the promotion of a former defense attorney for an American terrorist to the No. 3 spot at the Justice Department -- specifically charged with crafting U.S. policy on Guantanamo detainees.
J. Christian Adams, once an elections lawyer who accused the Justice Department of racial bias in its decision to not prosecute a voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party, said Tony West's promotion from assistant attorney general for the Civil Division to acting associate attorney general is one more step toward letting radicals run the Justice Department.
"The most dangerous thing is that West is overseeing Gitmo policy. It's not that he's just some guy at the Justice Department licking envelopes," Adams told Fox News on Sunday.
Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, noted that in Holder's announcement of West's promotion, he "conveniently omitted" West's role as the defense attorney for convicted Al Qaeda terrorist John Walker Lindh, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being captured in Afghanistan in 2001 while fighting with the Taliban.
"He actually pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban and carrying explosives while fighting U.S. troops in the region," Judicial Watch noted of Lindh.
Adams said not only did West represent Lindh, but his firm was also involved in two other defense cases for terrorists working against the U.S.
"Tony West took on, and his firm, took some of the most radical causes for America's enemies before coming to the Justice Department," he said.
"When he took on the representation of John Walker Lindh, even after the sentencing, he was out shilling for him. He said things like ... 'I think he'll have a lot to offer after he gets out of jail.' I mean, what is he going to have to offer after when he gets out of jail? How to endear yourself to prominent Democrat lawyers? I mean there's no reason to be talking like that."
West has previously defended his work for Lindh, saying, "I fully believe that in working on that case, I was recommitting myself to those principles of due process, fairness -- things that separate us from most nations in this world."
West was promoted a week ago. In the announcement, Attorney General Eric Holder said West and Stuart Delery, who was tapped to fill the spot West is leaving, "bring a wealth of experience to their new positions."
"I'm confident they will provide invaluable leadership and will play a critical role in furthering the department's key priorities and fulfilling its traditional missions," he said.
West, who was a a finance co-chairman in President Obama's 2008 election, was nominated for his Civil Division post in January 2009 and approved by the Senate in April of that year. Prior to joining the administration, he was a special assistant attorney general in California and a lawyer at a San Francisco firm.
At the Justice Department, West was already responsible for litigating national security cases like habeas corpus petitions brought by detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He also was the top lawyer defending the president's health care reform legislation against constitutional challenges and leading civil enforcement actions filed after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. His department defends federal officials in lawsuits filed against them.
Adams, who now runs the Election Law Center blog, said in another era, being a defense attorney for America's enemies would not have qualified someone for a job at the Justice Department.
"It would have disqualified you," he said. Now, though, many of the very people who worked for detainees at Guantanamo "are in charge of Gitmo policy."
Holder is expected to deliver remarks on Monday on national security matters and the Obama administration's counterterrorism efforts