Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rovewellian Right Assaults Lawyers Over GITMO

Also at Kos.

As the fifth anniversary (January 13) of the use of the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay as a holding facility for prisoners of our "war on terror" approached, the Rovewellian noise generator kicked into high gear in response to the anticipated global protests demanding that the prison be shut down.

I never thought anything could motivate me to come out in defense of lawyers, but elements of the unscrupulous right just gave me all the provocation I need to violate my own principles.

I hate being manipulated like that.

Kill All the (Wrong Kinds) of Lawyers

Neil A. Lewis of the New York Times reveals that conservative media figures and a senior Department of Defense official have been intimidating attorneys who represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

In a radio interview last Thursday, Charles D. Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, expressed dismay that attorneys at the nation's top law firms were representing prisoners being detained in Cuba, and suggested that the firms' corporate clients should terminate their business ties. Stimson named 12 of the law firms involved on air.

Friday, Robert L. Pollock of the Wall Street Journal editorial board published the names of the law offices in an op-ed piece and quoted a "senior U.S. official" as saying “Corporate C.E.O.s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

The list of law firms involved in the Guantanamo issue came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by conservative talk show host and sometime MSNBC anchor/commentator Monica Crowley.

In his radio interview, Mr. Stimson admitted that some of the attorneys defending Guantanamo detainees might be contributing their time and talents on a pro bono basis, but that "others are receiving moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.” He also said, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms."

I find it interesting that Mr. Stimson, who was a Navy lawyer, would choose to use that kind of language. We really have no way of knowing which (if any) of the Guantanamo detainees are actually "terrorists," and his clear implication is that some attorneys representing the detainees are being paid by terrorist groups. When he gets a lawsuit slapped upside his noggin, I hope for his sake that he has the good sense to hire a better lawyer than he is.

I'll also be curious to discover who pays his legal fees.

A senior Pentagon official told NYT's Lewis that Stimson's comments “…do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership.” It's interesting, though, that Stimson made his comments on Federal News Radio, a D.C. based station aimed at an audience of government employees.

And it's funny how a government agency could let a government employee broadcast a message on a government propaganda outlet and then disavow what he said, huh?

No, I don't think Stimson has to fear for his financial future; but I'd like to have been in the room to see the look on his face when he drew the short straw.

Piled Higher and Deeper

In a rant on MSNBC Friday, conservative pundit Pat Buchanan insisted the Guantanamo detainees weren't entitled to rights or due process because they are "prisoners of war." He used the "prisoners of war" term repeatedly.

From the outset, the Bush administration insisted that the detainees at Guantanamo were not "prisoners of war" but rather "unlawful combatants," and as such were not entitled to any of the rights and protections included in the Geneva Convention, the United Nations Convention against Torture or the laws and Constitution of the United States.

Surely Pat Buchanan knows that. Maybe he doesn't. But whether he's deliberately lying or unforgivably ignorant, he's wittingly or unwittingly part of the malignant right's misinformation/disinformation/propaganda/blackmail/extortion campaign, one that by all appearances is designed to keep the Bush administration's high crimes and misdemeanors from coming to light.

If irony were still alive and with us, it would chuckle that neo-fascist choir is banging its anvils in attacks on the kinds of lawyers who insist on enforcing the rule of law in an effort to protect the kinds of lawyers--like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales--who insist that when it comes to anything Mr. Bush does, the rule of law is "quaint" and "obsolete."

And if shame still existed, the likes of Charles Stimson, Robert Pollock, Monica Crowley and Pat Buchanan would take their money/retirements, and go home, and shove a cork in their pie holes.

Lamentably, irony and shame, rule of law, checks and balances and separation of powers, "inalienable" individual rights, enlightened reason, transparency in government and a host of other supposed American values are deader than the bolt lock on your front door.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. This from Michael O'Hare of Reality-Based Community blog, quoting D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (from D.C. Bar Assn):
    "It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
    (a) Violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another…
    (d) Engage in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice…"

    Clearly, Stimson's comments should be sufficient to begin disbarment procedings against him.

    There are plenty of others in D.C. who would also fall into this category many times over, with Alberto Gonzales leading the pack, assuming the D.C. Bar takes their own regs at all seriously, an assumption that seems to be without merit.

    What part of "innocent until proven guilty" don't these people understand?

  2. Kathleen,

    The part that their hired legal guns tell them doesn't apply to young Mister Bush.

  3. We probably need a good lawyer's view of the legal liability that attaches to this sort of slandar. Where's Scott?

  4. Hi Jeff and everybody else.
    I have nominated Pen and Sword for Best Mil Blog.

    It's even worth a bit o' cash.
    Oh and Commander, it's allowed to vote for yourself, but if you think that's not right please consider a vote for Anger Management,which follows just after yours on the list. A Lt.(Army) in Iraq. His wife is too. Their son is waiting with the Gramps for them to come home.

  5. Human,

    Thanks much for the nomination.


    There's an interesting leagal knuckle here, having to do with Stimson not being liable for a civil suit if he was acting in his capacity as an officer with DoD.

    I'm not sure how that would play out.

  6. Anonymous6:15 AM

    i sure am glad Atticus Finch was there for me.

  7. Anonymous8:41 PM

    "We probably need a good lawyer's view of the legal liability that attaches to this sort of slandar. "

    The 'slander' applies more to Stimson's critics than Stimson himself. It's questionable that the Gitmo detainees, a culling of the worst-of-the-worst caught in the Afghanistan battlefield and from anti-terrorism ops elsewhere, are terrorists? Hardly. It's slander to merely point out that this dubious pro bono practice is going on, and question motives of top law firms going to bat for accused terrorists? Not at all. The mind boggles at the thought that the 'good guys' are not the soldiers and the generals who risked life and limb to capture these terrorists on a battlefield, but lawyers who in the safety and comfort of a courtroom plead for clemency for those who apparently want to destroy America.

    Yes, the lawyers have the right to defend terrorists, and terrorists have rights to defend, but murders, mobsters and maniacs get those rights too, and the lawyers themselves are not doing any favors for us, for the legal system, or for our freedoms. These kind of legal work is about sa good for America as the wonderful work of that legal team that got OJ away with murder. It's wonderful that 'human rights' lawyers and others have gotten some accused terrorists freed from Gitmo, less wonderful when you consider that many of those freed in the past have ended up fighting us again, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. These are not innocents.

    Also: You can agree or not with Pat B's calling these folks "prisoners of war", but since Pat B. has never been a Bush administration member (or cheerleading flunky), there is no reason for his "POW" label to match up exactly with "unlawful combatant" that the administration likes to use. Less reason to question it, since for the most part these are individuals caught via military operations. (The Bush Administration and DoD does it to precisely draw the correct point that these prisoners, while caught in warfare, are not legally entitled to Geneva Convention protections, although USA has granted them humane treatment and those protections anyway as part of our Uniform Code and recent Federal law.)

  8. PM,

    Back to my original comment--we have no way of really knowing which if any of the detainees are terrorists, or the "worst of the worst," or which of them want to destroy America.

    Stimson's clear implication is that some of the law firms involved are in collusion with terror groups, which I suspect makes him liable to some sort of redress by te law firms involved.

    The POW label is quite important. It's the defining term under which most of the Geneva rights are granted. I'm not so sure denying the folks at GITMO POW status was a correct or legal. If, as Rumsfeld said, they were picked up on a battlefield, if they surrendered, if they put their weapons down, if they were part of a militia with some sort of chain of command, if they were dressed differently from the U.S. troops on the battlefield, I think there's a pretty strong argument that they're entitled to POW status.

    As to whether they've been treated humanely, I'd say the jury, so to speak, is still out on that.

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