Liz Cheney’s ad was out of line

A group that is affiliated with former vice president Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz, lashed out recently at the U.S. Department of Justice for hiring a group of lawyers who formerly represented Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Keep America Safe (KAS), led by Cheney, has a Web ad depicting the lawyers as shadowy figures behind the text, “The Al-Qaeda 7,” to the tune of obnoxiously frightening music.

“Whose values do they share?” the ad asks.

Cheney, however, has defended the depiction of the lawyers as terrorist sympathizers. “Actually, it doesn’t question anybody’s loyalty,” she said in an interview on “America’s Morning News” radio show.

Despite her defenses, the ad is clear in its ridicule, referring to the Department of Justice as the “Department of Jihad.”

By insinuating that these lawyers somehow share the values of the detainees, she not only discredits KAS, but also the conservative tradition of upholding the Constitution and the limits of government.

The U.S. has a long history of providing strong legal representation, even to unpopular or sometimes hated defendants. After the Boston Massacre, Thomas Jefferson provided legal defense to the eight British soldiers involved in the incident.

Would Cheney question Jefferson’s loyalty for winning the acquittal of six of those soldiers? Her actions show she would.

She has been clear that the detainees are enemy combatants captured in war, and they have no right to habeas corpus or any other constitutional protection. This concept is seriously flawed, amounting to a “guilty until proven innocent” approach.

According to a 2006 “Report on Guantanamo Detainees,” which is based on U.S. military documents, 55 percent of detainees have not committed any hostile act against the U.S. or its coalition allies, and only 8 percent are described as “al-Qaeda fighters.”

Most concerning is that 86 percent of the detainees were handed over to the U.S. by Pakistanis or other Afghans in exchange for substantial financial rewards, according to he report.

As conservatives frequently point out in other contexts, the War on Terror is different from any other. When there is no clear enemy, it raises complex legal questions. The system for managing theses issues is still developing, and lawyers who represent detainees are an integral part of the process.

Adequate defense counsel has always been a tenant of the American justice system, and the act of demonizing lawyers for providing a valuable public service is patently against America’s values.

Thankfully, many prominent conservatives have come out in opposition to her ad. The Brookings Institution released a letter signed by 21 prominent Republicans, including Ken Starr and David Rivkin, condemning her attacks as “unjust” and “destructive.”

It’s heartening to see that although the political climate has become intensely bitter, those on the right have limits on what they see as acceptable discourse.

Vincent DeFrancesco is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.