On Terrorists: Justice Recused; Attorney General's Advisers Have Conflicts on Detainee Cases

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 22, 2009 | Go to article overview

On Terrorists: Justice Recused; Attorney General's Advisers Have Conflicts on Detainee Cases


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Obama Justice Department is having problems prosecuting terrorist cases because top department attorneys have conflicts of interest.

According to documents obtained exclusively by The Washington Times, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, No. 3 official in the Justice Department, had to recuse himself on at least 13 active detainee cases and at least 26 cases listed as either closed or mooted.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, made waves Nov. 18 when he demanded that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. provide a list of all the suspected-terrorist detainee cases from which current Justice Department political appointees have had to recuse themselves. The extent of the conflicts at the department is still unclear.

Mr. Perrelli's recusals presumably stem from the work that either he or his former firm, Jenner & Block LLP, did on behalf of detainees while Mr. Perrelli served on the firm's management committee and on its appellate and Supreme Court practice groups. And Mr. Perrelli is just one official; a number of other Justice Department officials apparently did private-sector work on detainee cases.

This is an important topic. Even if each official who did prior work on detainee cases has indeed properly recused himself from those cases while at the Justice Department, there could be such a large number of affected officials that the department's prevailing ethos could be tilted strongly in the detainees' favor. Mr. Grassley's inquiry is pressing because it could ferret out any instance in which a department official should have been recused but wasn't.

When the senator publicly requested information from Mr. Holder, the attorney general merely promised to consider the request. After some hemming and hawing and dodging, Mr. Holder eventually said he needed to make sure there was no attorney-client privilege involved before disclosing the list of recusals. …

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