Monday, January 15, 2007

US Defence Official Calls for Business pressure on Guantanamo lawyers

From Balkanization:

"Now comes before you Mr. Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. In an interview with conservative radio broadcasters on a local A.M. station, Mr. Stimson remarks that an interesting, breaking story is the list of blue-chip law firms representing Guantanamo detainees – a list that he says was unearthed by a FOIA request (although, as Stimson knows quite well, the information was never a secret). (The audio is here. Scroll down to Guantanamo Bay: Five Years Later.) Stimson finds it “shocking, really” that prominent law firms would do any such thing. As he rattles off the list of law firms, it becomes clear that he has it on paper in front of him: it’s too lengthy to come off the top of his head. Asked who is paying the law firms, Stimson magnanimously admits that some of these lawyers are working pro bono, but then he hints darkly that others may have nefarious, secret funding sources. Enemies within! More terrorist lawfare!

He adds, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. It will be fun to watch that play out.”...

The response was predictable, and gratifying. The ABA’s president, and defense-bar spokesman Neal Sonnett leaped to the law firms’ defense, as did Senator Leahy. After outraged editorials in both the New York Times and the Washington Post publicized Stimson’s obscurely-situated interview, the Defense Department disavowed his remarks in strong terms, and made all the right noises about how important it is for the legal process to have excellent counsel for detainees.

How’s that again? For five years, the government (not least Defense) has fought in every way possible to avoid access to legal process for the detainees, a campaign that culminated in the habeas-stripping provisions in the Military Commissions Act. Why would they want excellent representation for the detainees, given that they don’t want the detainees ever to find a forum to be represented in? The hypocrisy boggles the mind. I assume that what bothered Defense about Stimson’s remarks is not their content but their candor."

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