Ashcroft’s War on Legal Whistleblowers

D.C. attorney Jesselyn Radack was once employed in the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (an oxymoron these days, if you ask me, but that is another article). She was the wrong woman in the wrong place at the right time. In 2002, Ashcroft was trying to get the lethal injection for young John Walker Lindh. To hear Ashcroft describe him, Lindh, the misguided, naive, well-to-do student of Islam, was the anti-Christ himself.

FBI and DOJ had some explaining to do about Lindh’s so-called confessions and whether his Miranda rights (not to be questioned without an attorney present, if he so chose) were violated. At first, Justice said he never asked for a lawyer. Then they conceded that his father asked for a lawyer but they didn’t know about it. Then they said that his father asked for a lawyer and they did know about it, but that didn’t count because his father did not have the right to ask for a lawyer for his son. His son had to ask. But then, Lindh did ask. Sort of. He said I think my dad is getting me a lawyer. DOJ interrogators, who had removed Lindh from Afghanistan to some ship and kept him in a cargo box, kept on questioning and Lindh made what to the government were incriminating statements.

Back to Jesselyn Radack. Her story, earlier versions of which were reported in The New Yorker and Newsweek, has taken a turn for the worst. As reported in The American Lawyer, not only was Radack forced to resign from DOJ, she has been fired by the law firm that subsequently hired her. And she may be facing criminal prosecution.

That’s right, the Department of Justice is hot on the trail of the Department of Justice attorney who had the audacity to send copies of emails to the federal judge that suggested that Justice did know that Lindh’s father and the lawyer he retained were telling DOJ contacts holding Lindh not to question him without his lawyer being present. The source of the advice not to question Lindh came from Radack herself–after all, that was her job. To advise DOJ employees about thorny legal matters.

According to the article by Douglas McCollam, Radack advised John De Pue, a counterterrorism prosecutor, in a series of emails, that since Lindh’s father had hired James Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster, she didn’t think the Federal Bureau of Investigation could question Lindh alone. Others at Justice disagreed, and Lindh’s statements became the basis of a 10-count indictment.

When Radack argued that her e-mails should be disclosed to the judge hearing Lindh’s case, she and her bosses ended up at odds. In April 2002 Radack quit the Justice Department and joined the D.C. branch of New York’s Hawkins, Delafield & Wood.

Two months later her e-mails showed up in a story by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff. And about two weeks after that, she got a call from Ronald Powell, a special agent for the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. As Radack begin to realize that she was a potential prosecution target, she hired an attorney to defend her. Her law firm could not stand the heat and fired her.

So now, a 32-year old woman of principle, with two children, a third on the way, and suffering from multiple sclerosis, has DOJ breathing down her neck. They didn’t get to put Lindh to death, partly because the validity of some of his statements were in question, but they got 20 years out of the young man’s life.

What they didn’t get from Lindh, they are trying to make up by ruining Radack’s legal career, and even more. And if having DOJ trying to ruin your life is not enough, after the Hawkins firm firmed her, they appealed her receipt of unemployment benefits. She won that round. But, they struck back. They told her they turned over her office computer to the Justice Department.

Radack’s professional and personal lives are in limbo because Radack dared to mess with one of John Ashcroft’s cases. His prosecutors were left bumbling and scrambling, they had to negotiate with the attorney the FBI would not let Lindh see, and someone is going to pay. This time, it is the attorney who stood for the right thing. That is the wrong thing to do in these times.

ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia and teaches law and psychology. She is writing a book on civil liberties post 9/11, and keeps an eye on Bush and Ashcroft’s trampling on the Bill of Rights at her Civil Liberties Watch. She would love to write a book about Ashcroft’s jurisprudence, but finds it too depressing. She can be reached at: ecassel1@cox.net

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South