Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a government official unwisely shooting his mouth off is just a government official unwisely shooting his mouth off.
When Charles D. Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, criticized lawyers at top law firms for representing Guantánamo Bay detainees, we speculated that perhaps his statements were part of a Bush Administration effort to discourage such representation. It appears that we were wrong.
Today’s Washington Post contains a letter of apology from Stimson. In the letter, he states that he “believe[s] firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel.”
After making his controversial remarks, Charles Stimson was roundly criticized by numerous law school deans. His abrupt about-face raises an amusing possibility: Could an open letter from law school deans — typically as worthless and irrelevant a piece of paper as a parking ticket on a diplomat’s windshield — have had an actual impact in the real world?
The full text of Cully Stimson’s apologetic letter, plus related links, after the jump.
Here’s Cully Simson’s mea culpa, from his letter to the Washington Post:
During a radio interview last week, I brought up the topic of pro bono work and habeas corpus representation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not.
I believe firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel. I support pro bono work, as I said in the interview. I was a criminal defense attorney in two of my three tours in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. I zealously represented unpopular clients — people charged with crimes that did not make them, or their attorneys, popular in the military. I believe that our justice system requires vigorous representation.
I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs
An Apology to Detainees’ Attorneys [Washington Post]
U.S. Official Apologizes for Guantanamo Remarks [Washington Post]
Statement by Law Deans on Stimson Remarks [Discourse.net]
Earlier: Make the Gitmo Detainees Pay for Their Own Damn Photocopies