Actually, I don't know what the rules governing disbarment are. But if one of the grounds for disbarment is revealing a total lack of the most basic knowledge of our legal system and its values, then Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, should be disbarred:
"In a repellent interview yesterday with Federal News Radio, Mr. Stimson brought up, unprompted, the number of major U.S. law firms that have helped represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
"Actually you know I think the news story that you're really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request through a major news organization, somebody asked, 'Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there,' and you know what, it's shocking," he said.
Mr. Stimson proceeded to reel off the names of these firms, adding, "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. And we want to watch that play out."
Asked who was paying the firms, Mr. Stimson hinted of dark doings. "It's not clear, is it?" he said. "Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they're doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving monies from who knows where, and I'd be curious to have them explain that."
It might be only laughable that Mr. Stimson, during the interview, called Guantanamo "certainly, probably, the most transparent and open location in the world."
But it's offensive -- shocking, to use his word -- that Mr. Stimson, a lawyer, would argue that law firms are doing anything other than upholding the highest ethical traditions of the bar by taking on the most unpopular of defendants. It's shocking that he would seemingly encourage the firms' corporate clients to pressure them to drop this work. And it's shocking -- though perhaps not surprising -- that this is the person the administration has chosen to oversee detainee policy at Guantanamo."
The full interview is available here; you can also access the WMP file directly by clicking here. Later in the interview, Stimson is asked whether there is "a possibility" that there are any people at Guantanamo who shouldn't be there, and says "not now."
As TPM points out, this comment didn't appear in isolation. Through some strange coincidence -- I mean, gosh, what are the odds? -- the WSJ had an
editorial op ed by Robert L. Pollock today that made the same point:
"Guantanamo detainees don't lack for legal representation. A list of lead counsel released this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request reads like a who's who of America's most prestigious law firms: Shearman and Sterling; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr; Covington & Burling; Hunton & Williams; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cleary Gottlieb; and Blank Rome are among the marquee names.
A senior U.S. official I spoke to speculates that this information might cause something of scandal, since so much of the pro bono work being done to tilt the playing field in favor of al Qaeda appears to be subsidized by legal fees from the Fortune 500. "Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists" who deliberately target the U.S. economy, he opined."
The President of the ABA responds:
"Karen J. Mathis, a Denver lawyer who is president of the American Bar Association, said: “Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law. To impugn those who are doing this critical work — and doing it on a volunteer basis — is deeply offensive to members of the legal profession, and we hope to all Americans.”"
You really have to wonder why the government is so scared that the Guantanamo detainees might actually get their day in court that they're willing to toss the fundamental principles of our legal system out the window, and to resort to this sort of veiled threat. You also have to wonder what kind of legal education Stimson got at George Mason University Law School. If I were into threats, I'd suggest the ABA revisit their accreditation. At least in that case there would be some actual evidence that they have failed to teach the most basic values of our legal system.
But I'm not, so I'll just say: if either having no clue whatsoever about how our legal system works or being willing to try to subvert it is grounds for disbarment, then Charles Stimson should be disbarred. Because I don't see any other explanation for what he said.