I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Response to right-wing personal attacks

As I've noted several times in the last couple of weeks, my focus on the lawlessness, extremist rhetoric and violence-inciting tactics of the Bush movement and its followers in the blogosphere has triggered a slew of posts on multiple blogs devoted to childish ad hominem attacks, efforts to investigate my personal and professional background, and all sorts of wild accusations of every type, aimed at everything from my bar status to my sexual orientation to where I spend my time.

Numerous blogs have made such posts literally their primary topic for more than a week. Many of the most repeated claims are just factually false, while others are petty and adolescent. But because the principal targets of my arguments -- such as Instapundit and Little Green Footballs -- have taken to promoting virtually every post which contains such attacks, no matter how juvenile or false, they continue to be churned out by attention-seeking bloggers, and the attacks have received relatively wide dissemination.

None of this is unexpected, nor is it unusual. Anyone who enters the political process on any level has to expect such attacks. My posts aren't demure and are often devoted to aggressive criticism and exposure of others, albeit confined to the substantive rather than the personal. But I'm well-aware that engaging in those activities will provoke responses of this sort. And the more circulated and effective the criticism is, the more intense and limitless will be the attacks. That is just how things work, and it's true for everyone. As I wrote a few days ago:

Shining light on the extremist impulses and authoritarian mindset of the pro-Bush movement is, for reasons I've explained here, one of the most important (and effective) weapons against it. . . . And just as anyone who criticizes their ultimate Leader, the Commander-in-Chief, is attacked with full force, so, too, will criticizing their online leaders subject one to all sorts of bitter personal invective, impotent attempts to research one's background, juvenile name-calling -- all of which is promoted and encouraged on an almost daily basis by their wounded leader. [John]Dean's preface is devoted to detailing some of the most amazing personal assaults aimed at him once he spoke out against the new "conservative" movement.

But that is how all bullies and authoritarian movements behave -- by collectively swarming to demonize anyone who criticizes it as the Enemy, a mentally ill liar, etc.
Ask Richard Clarke, or Joe Wilson, or Howard Dean, or Jack Murtha, or Al Gore, or the anti-war Generals -- or any of the other mentally ill, seditious traitors and liars who have criticized the Commander-in-Chief and who oppose his movement. It is simply par for the course. And the more wounded and threatened they feel from the criticisms, the more intense will be their insults and name-calling tantrums and efforts to attack personally. It is one of the hallmarks of a dying movement that knows it is dying an ignominious death, and it is grounded in great weakness.

Nonetheless, as much as one might like to, I don't believe in the wisdom of ignoring personal attacks, particularly false ones. I know there is a line of thought that counsels that one should ignore these things but I don't ultimately agree with that. Doing so allows those claims to solidify as truth. Readers of this blog are aware that I rarely discuss anything about my background or legal work or anything else personal, simply because I don't think it's interesting or relevant to the issues to which my blog is devoted. The last thing I want to do is address these things by writing about myself, and that is particularly so because the issues they have raised are unbelievably petty, even quite boring.

But since there are those who apparently find it so interesting, and who have spent the better part of the last couple of weeks devoted to making all sorts of false claims about those matters, I am going to respond in as comprehensive a way as possible, in the sure-to-be-futile hope that I don't need to do so again:

My law practice

These are some of the claims I've read repeatedly: Contrary to my claim, I never practiced law at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (the first firm at which I practiced). I was only an intern there. I was fired by that firm before I was admitted to the bar. I encountered ethical problems during my litigation practice. I'm an "unemployed" lawyer with a delinquent law license.

Wachtell, Lipton is known to be the most prestigious and selective law firm in the country. It hires its associates during their second year of law school to be Summer Associates, which is how one becomes a full-time lawyer at the firm. I had an offer from Wachtell, Lipton (along with 15 or so of the top law firms in the country) to be a Summer Associate in my second year of law school at NYU, and I was a Summer Associate at Wachtell the following summer. I then received an offer to be a full-time lawyer upon graduation in 1994, which I accepted. I worked at that firm throughout my third year of law school, and then upon graduating. I continued to work there once I was admitted to the Bar in 1995.

All of the performance reviews I received there of my work were uniformly and enthusiastically positive. At the end of 1995, I left the firm voluntarily to begin my own firm, because I wanted to litigate constitutional issues and cases that I found interesting rather than represent investment banks in securities fraud cases and large corporations in commercial contract disputes. When I advised the firm I was leaving, they attempted to persuade me to stay.

I began my own firm as a sole practitioner at the beginning of 1996 and practiced law for the next ten years in Manhattan at my own firm, which eventually grew to six lawyers and had a nationwide litigation practice specializing in constitutional issues and the other matters which I list in my profile. I was never sanctioned or disciplined by any bar, court, or anyone else. I decided voluntarily to wind down my practice in 2005 because I could, and because, after ten years, I was bored with litigating full-time and wanted to do other things which I thought were more engaging and could make more of an impact, including political writing.

None of this is a secret. Right at the top of my blog, I wrote: "For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC. . . . " I talked extensively on my book tour about why I stopped practicing law in order to engage in political advocacy. The success of my first book has led to a second book contract with a large publishing company and my time is devoted, among other things, to my blog, to the political writing I do outside of the blog, and to the book I am working on. I don't claim to actively practice law now and I never have claimed that since I wound down my practice.

My sexual orientation

I've read repeatedly that I'm a closeted homosexual and even that I sued to keep my sexual orientation a secret. And needless to say, a central part of the ad hominem attacks from pro-Bush bloggers has now become a homophobic concentration on such matters.

I've been openly gay for 20 years. Despite the claims that I have tried to hide this and even sued to keep it a secret, the way the investigative geniuses of the right-wing blogosphere "discovered" that I was gay was that my partner and I commenced a lawsuit in 1996 which, among other things, sought a ruling that the "spousal communication" privilege statute in New York -- which bars compelled disclosure of the marital communications between spouses in litigation -- applied equally to gay spousal couples, on the ground that the plain language of the statute compelled that meaning and, alternatively, that it is unconstitutional to deny gay couples the same right heterosexual couples have to not disclose their marital communications in lawsuits. As a result, there are online judicial decisions from that case detailing that we commenced the litigation based upon claims of equivalency between our spousal relationship and those recognized by law.

I just did my multiple-city book tour with my partner on every stop and there are newspaper stories about the book which reference that. I don't believe the state has the right to use its coercive power to promote heterosexual relationships over homosexual ones, and I've consequently done substantial gay rights work in the past, primarily in law school, and there was ample media coverage of some of that work. I don't write much about gay issues because I don't really have a lot to say that I think is particularly unique -- although I have written about gay issues on my blog several times before -- but the last thing I have done is tried to conceal my sexual orientation.

Having said all of that, I have been surprised -- although I probably shouldn't be -- at how quick and pervasive is the attempt to make all sorts of gay slurs when responding to my posts now that they "discovered" these facts. Despite all the lip service that is paid by Bush supporters to not subscribing to anti-gay bigotry, it is striking how widely acceptable those sorts of attacks are.

Comments left in blogs

A new accusation is that I've been engaging in so-called "sock puppetry" by leaving comments in response to posts that attack me under other names., i.e., that I use multiple names to comment and the same comment was left at several blogs by the same IP address under different names.

Not frequently, I leave comments at blogs which criticize or respond to something I have written. I always, in every single instance, use my own name when doing so. I have never left a single comment at any other blog using any name other than my own, at least not since I began blogging. IP addresses signify the Internet account one uses, not any one individual. Those in the same household have the same IP address. In response to the personal attacks that have been oozing forth these last couple of weeks, others have left comments responding to them and correcting the factual inaccuracies, as have I. In each case when I did, I have used my own name.

Where I live

A recent and now-widespread claim is that I don't live in the United States, but in Brazil. I'm an expatriate. My book should be called "How Would an Expatriate Act"?

Other than a 9 month period after college when I lived in Europe, I've lived in the United States my entire life. My partner is Brazilian and is a citizen of Brazil. Revealingly, American law prevents the recognition of our relationship as a ground for him to live in the United States, while Brazilian law recognizes same-sex relationships for visa and immigration purposes. As a result, for the past year, I have spent substantial time in Brazil while also having a residence in New York. Spending substantial time in another country does not make one an "expatriate." And even those American citizens who do give up American residence and live abroad retain full rights of citizenship, including voting rights. But I have not done so.

Contrary to the celebratory claims that this fact was uncovered as part of some sort of probing investigation, they were able to "discover" this because I openly talked about it. It was part of my blog profile; was published in the front page article in the San Fransisco Chronicle; and is something I talk about with anyone who asks and even with those who do not. As a result of my partner being Brazilian and American law prohibiting our relationship from enabling him to reside in the United States, I spent roughly half my time last year in the United States and half in Brazil, and I can't imagine what meaning anyone could find in that.

* * *

Writing a blog post about myself is pretty much the last thing I want to be doing. But I also know that it is necessary to prevent false accusations from being accepted as true. I'm well-aware that these attacks are triggered by the efficacy of the work I have been doing. If what I were doing were ineffective, it would be ignored, rather than catalyzing unusually obsessive and highly emotional personal attacks of this nature.

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