Liberal CBS Legal Analyst: I Wasn't That Political, and When I Was, It Was Bush's Fault

The same CBS legal analyst who...: now ending his CourtWatch blog, all the while insisting that his writings over the years were mostly dry legalese and that those which were not, well, that's the fault of the people he was writing about, namely, the Bush adminstration.

CBS's Andrew Cohen in his Nov. 30 "Banging the Final Gavel" retrospective:

Looking back, I find some of those old columns naïve and formalistic; full of comment without perspective; interpretation without context. This was true whether the legal stories I was covering were overtly political or not (and, despite what the critics say, the vast majority weren't political at all).

As the years went on, however, and as I learned my beat, CourtWatch found its voice. It became radicalized -- not in a political sense but in a literary one. When you are lied to by public officials, over and over again, when your fighting faiths are worn down by the half-truths and misinformation and overzealousness by government shills, it is natural to become offended and then cynical about the cynical people whose judgments you are being paid to dissect. And so CourtWatch inevitably became a little edgier, a little angrier; a little more willing to call out public officials or private citizens whose conduct in the world of law and politics was unbecoming. 

Cohen went on to insist that "[t]he predilection for fudging the rule of law, I have learned, is bipartisan, even universal" and that if there were to be a  "tombstone and an epitaph [for CourtWatch] I would want it to read: Tried To Warn You."

This, of course, begs the question why Cohen would quit his blog now instead of hanging in there throughout Obama's first term to render his verdict on policies of the Obama/Holder DOJ that he may disagree with.

After all, Attorney General Holder and President Obama have insisted that even if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) were to be acquitted of the 9/11 terrorism charges, he would not be released as say a garden variety civilian criminal who was acquitted:

In a day of startling comments over pending terrorism trials, the top justice official – Attorney-General Eric Holder – made it equally clear that Mr. Mohammed won't walk free, even if a New York City jury fails to convict him or a federal court judge tosses out the case.


“If there is not a successful conclusion to this trial, that would not mean that this person would be released,” Mr. Holder bluntly told the Congressional hearing, referring to Mr. Mohammed – the self-proclaimed planner of the Sept 11, 2001, suicide hijackings.

“What if a federal judge orders the Department of Justice to release Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?” Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn asked. “Will you defy that order?”

Mr. Holder made it clear that by moving Mr. Mohammed to a prison offshore – such as Bagram in Afghanistan, where hundreds of detainees are held – a release order could be circumvented.

“We have taken the view that the judiciary does not have the ability necessarily to certainly require us to, with people who are held overseas, to release them,” he said. “It's hard for me to imagine a set of circumstances, given the other things that we could do with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed” that would result in him being freed,” the Attorney-General said.

It would be obscenely unconstitutional and a perversion of justice to do that sort of thing to a civilian criminal being tried in U.S. courts, yet Holder has insisted the Obama administration will not necessarily be bound by civilian judges ordering actions it deems counter to national security interests. If that doesn't sound like it conflicts with the rule of law, what does?

Instead, in a November 18 column, Cohen slammed attorney and National Review contributor Andrew McCarthy for criticizing the KSM trial decision as "irresponsible," launching into a diatribe against conservatives and the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and insisting that Republicans were dead-set on unfair show trials for the terrorist masterminds:

One of the most irresponsible [decisions] ever made by a presidential administration"? Really? More irresponsible than blowing off warnings in August 2001 about al Qaeda attacks within the United States using planes? More irresponsible than starting a war against Iraq based upon faulty intelligence information? More irresponsible than letting Osama bin Laden escape from Tora Bora? More irresponsible than authorizing the torture of terror suspects in contravention of domestic and foreign law? More irresponsible than insisting upon unfair military tribunal rules despite Supreme Court decisions to the contrary?

Conservatives like McCarthy had their chance to prosecute the legal war on terror and America is still cleaning up the mess they have left. For example, the Bush administration and its supporters in Congress had several opportunities to formulate fair trial rules for men like Mohammed. Instead, the executive and legislative branches tried over and over again to force a series of patently unfair procedures down the throats of the federal judiciary.

For what it's worth, you may not have heard the last about Cohen from the digital pages of NewsBusters. The CBS legal analyst plans to stick around a while, even if he doesn't have a blog from which to pontificate:

CourtWatch may be departing the scene but I promise you I will endeavor to stick around for at least one more decade putting to public use my hard-earned but new-found expertise. The great Anthony Lewis once suggested that I might become "a tribune of the law." It is all I have ever wanted to be as a journalist, all I ever tried to be at CBS News as its chief legal analyst, and all I hope to be down the road no matter what the future holds.

Judiciary Political Groups War on Terrorism Media Bias Debate Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Military Crime Interrogation Techniques Online Media CBS online Blogs Government & Press Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Andrew McCarthy Eric Holder