- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

Frank W. Dunham Jr., who as a federal public defender took on some of the nation’s most high-profile terrorism cases after the September 11 attacks, died Nov. 3 of brain cancer at his Alexandria home, colleagues said. He was 64.

Mr. Dunham was the lead attorney for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person the U.S. government charged in the September 11 attacks.

Mr. Dunham represented Moussaoui vigorously and had concerns about his client’s mental health.

Moussaoui responded by heaping scorn on Mr. Dunham at every turn, but Mr. Dunham remained zealous in defense of his client.

By the time Moussaoui went on trial this year, Mr. Dunham was too ill to participate in the case. Moussaoui is serving life in prison.

While Moussaoui was Mr. Dunham’s most high-profile client, his colleagues pointed to Mr. Dunham’s representation of Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was accused of being an enemy combatant, as his crowning achievement.

The Bush administration argued that Mr. Hamdi, a U.S. citizen, had no right as an enemy combatant to challenge his detention in American courts.

But Mr. Dunham argued Mr. Hamdi’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won a decision giving Mr. Hamdi the right to challenge the detention in U.S. courts.

“A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote as part of a 6-3 ruling in Mr. Dunham’s favor in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

The government agreed several months after the ruling to release Mr. Hamdi without charges.

“The Hamdi case was, in my judgment, one of the greatest accomplishments ever by an American attorney,” said defense lawyer Edward MacMahon, who worked with Mr. Dunham on the Moussaoui case and recalled how Mr. Dunham learned from a newspaper that Mr. Hamdi had been detained without charges. “He said, ‘That’s just wrong. You can’t do that to an American citizen.’ ”

Mr. Dunham had been a prosecutor and defense lawyer in Northern Virginia before becoming the federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2001. The office had not existed previously, and Mr. Dunham was instrumental in its creation.

As an assistant U.S. attorney from 1971 to 1978, Mr. Dunham prosecuted some of the espionage cases that are routinely adjudicated at the Alexandria courthouse and rose to the No. 2 position in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In private practice in 1980 he represented former FBI man W. Mark Felt, who was charged with authorizing illegal searches of anti-war radicals in the Vietnam era.

Mr. Felt later became famous when he acknowledged that he was “Deep Throat,” the confidential source who helped reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post break key stories in the Watergate scandal.

Ironically, Mr. Dunham called Richard Nixon as a defense witness to testify for Mr. Felt at the trial, well before Mr. Felt’s role in bringing down the Nixon presidency was known.

“The story Frank always told is that the jury turned its back on Nixon,” said Michael Nachmanoff, the acting federal public defender in Alexandria.

Mr. Felt was convicted, but pardoned by President Reagan in 1981.

Mr. Dunham is survived by his wife, Elinor “Ellie” Dunham; two sons, John “Jody” Dunham of Richmond and Frank “Chip” Dunham III of Rockville; a brother; and a grandson.

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