Like so many, I'm utterly heartbroken to hear that Senator Kennedy has been diagnosed with an aggressive malignant glioma. My thoughts and prayers, and those of countless others, are with him. My life is only a blip on the radar of the universe of lives he has touched. I just wanted to share my experience and say thank you.
UPDATE: I will forward your comments and well wishes to my contact in his office tomorrow morning.
Dear Senator Kennedy,
You were there for me when no one else was. I was the Justice Department ethics advisor-turned-whistleblower in the case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. You took up my case in the confirmation hearing of Michael Chertoff, then-Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, who was vying to become a federal judge, even though he was considered a relatively vanilla Republican compared to some of the other judicial nominees.
On May 7, 2003, you asked Chertoff about the Lindh interrogation during Chertoff's confirmation hearing.
Chertoff, incredibly, denied that the Justice Department's Professional Responsibility Advisory Office (PRAO), via me, had ever taken a position on the Lindh interrogation, despite the fact that the public record contradicted his denial.
I have to say, Senator, I think that the Professional Responsibility [Advisory] Office was not asked for advice in this matter. I was involved in it . . . Mr. Lindh was Mirandized, and had he requested counsel or requested to invoke his right to silence at the point at which the FBI was involved, they would have honored that request.
This second part was, at best, a gross mischaracterization of what happened and at worst, perjury. As Jane Mayer's uncontroverted article in The New Yorker documented, "[FBI Agent] Reimann read Lindh the Miranda warning. But, when noting the right to counsel, the agent now acknowledges, he ad-libbed, 'Of course there are no lawyers here.'"
You asked Chertoff a second time, "[D]o you remember what the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office['s] . . . position was on this?"
I was not consulted with respect to this matter . . . There are other parts of the Department that generally render opinions in this area of the law and other expertise that was consulted.
You persevered:"Well, the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office did not have an official position on this--"
I don't believe they had an official position on this.
Chertoff again lied. You submitted written follow-up questions. The Written questions asked how my e-mails, which ended up in Newsweek, were consistent with Chertoff's testimony that PRAO never took a position on Lindh's interrogation.
Chertoff repeated again that,
Those at the Department responsible for the Lindh mattter before and during the time of Lindh's interrogations did not to my knowledge seek PRAO's advice. I am not aware that PRAO ever took an official position about the Lindh interrogation or that any views expressed by an individual PRAO attorney were documented, factually and legally substantiated, reviewed and authorized, as I would expect before an official opinion was rendered. The e-mail traffic that you cite appears to be the impressions of a single PRAO attorney, without factual analysis and case law discussion, and therefore would not constitute an official position.
You next asked about my being extorted out of my job with a bogus performance evaluation from hell, about the e-mails being withheld from the Court, and about Justice notifying the managing partner of my new private sector employer that I was the target of a "criminal investigation." Chertoff conveniently denied having any knowledge about my employment, performance or departure.
Chertoff's nomination was held over for another week because you wanted to submit even more questions. In a moving and strongly-worded public statement on the nomination, you expressed your dissatisfaction with Chertoff's elliptical answers:
Last week I expressed my concern about Mr. Chertoff's failure to provide serious, consistent, and responsibe answers to the questions asked by members of this Committee. His answers . . . were non-responsive, evasive, and hyper-technical. They were stingy in substance, avoiding the questions that were asked, and often answering questions that were not asked . . .Evasive and non-responsive answers will not do--no matter how uncontroversial a candidate.
Your statement about Chertoff's misleading answers said it better than I ever could. Thank you for going out on a limb for me (I live in D.C. and have no voting representative in Congress). Thank you for holding someone prominent and well-liked accountable. Thank you for providing legitimacy to my case when I was in the government's cross-hairs, being subjected to pretextual investigations, referred to the state bars in which I am licensed as an attorney, put on the "No-Fly List," and other absurd retaliation.
I was one of millions of lives you have touched and I remain eternally grateful. You are in my thoughts and prayers, and I wish you strength and godspeed.