Posted by: N.S. Palmer | March 10, 2010

Dershowitz and the Right to Counsel

By N.S. Palmer, Ph.D.

Today’s New York Times has a forum about the Cheney gang’s attempt to demonize lawyers who represented accused terrorists during the Bush-Cheney era.

Before reading the exchange, I noticed that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was one of the participants. I wondered what position he would take.

In the past, he’s represented unpopular clients such as Claus von Bulow and has argued vigorously for their right to counsel — a right which is long established in European and American law. He’s also smart enough to recognize the stark contradiction between those facts and the Cheney gang’s propaganda campaign.

At the same time, Dershowitz is in the neoconservative orbit and could be expected to support anything for a war either against Islam or against those whom he perceives as Israel’s adversaries. In the United States, “accused terrorist” has been seen as roughly synonymous with “accused Muslim,” so it’s not much of a stretch.

In the end, Dershowitz did not disappoint. He acknowledged that accused terrorists, including sympathizers and “fellow travelers” (look it up), had a right to legal counsel. But he then drew a moral equivalence between providing legal counsel to suspects and providing legal cover to the Bush-Cheney regime for torturing prisoners. Providing the latter is the same kind of war crime for which Nazi judges were tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to long prison terms.

Give Dershowitz credit: He’s an advocate. No matter how immoral or irrational his position, he’ll argue it well.

Copyright 2010 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL ( are included.


  1. Thanks for posting this Noah. I have been following this debacle as well. Liz Cheney’s group “Keep America Safe” would more correctly be titled “Keep America Scared & Enslaved.”

    • Hi, Jet —

      Thanks for coming by! You’re right. And the Cheney attacks on Justice Department lawyers have been so outrageous that even many conservatives have denounced them.

  2. “And the Cheney attacks on Justice Department lawyers have been so outrageous that even many conservatives have denounced them.”

    Too right!

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