The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.
The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble….
When asked in the radio interview who was paying for the legal representation, Mr. Stimson replied: “It’s not clear, is it? 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 moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”
Props to this Charles Stimson fellow. Even if his views may be completely misguided, we like anyone who stirs up a s**tstorm.
Discussion continues after the jump.
Stimson gets to drum up controversy, assuming the role of “bad cop,” while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gets to play “good cop”:
In an interview on Friday, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said he had no problem with the current system of representation. “Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases,” he said.
This could very well be a deliberate strategy on the part of the Bush Administration (even though right now the pot-stirring Stimson is being made to look like a renegade of sorts). The controversy being created by Stimson may cause more cautious or conservative law firms to cut off their participation in defending Guantanamo Bay detainees — or deter new firms from joining the effort. But the White House, the DOJ and the Pentagon get to keep their hands clean, by saying that Stimson’s views aren’t necessarily their own. Nifty. Shrewd.
We bet this wouldn’t have happened if Matthew C. Waxman, a member of the Elect (OT 2000/Souter), were still deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. Alas, Matt Waxman — who is brilliant, fair-minded, and super-nice — is now over at the State Department.
Matthew Waxman’s departure from the Defense Department may have been caused, at least in part, by his frequent clashes with the all-powerful David S. Addington, Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. According to a source quoted in this article, after Waxman “tried to champion Article 3″ of the Geneva Conventions, David Addington “ate him for lunch.”
(Supreme Court clerks: they’re not just legal geniuses; they’re also nutritious and delicious. As Homer Simpson might say: “Mmmm, SCOTUS clerks.” )
Given his hard-line views, highlighted in this most recent controversy, we suspect that Charles “Cully” Stimson will get along with Addington much better than Waxman did.
* Another indication of the importance of this story: Over at the WSJ Law Blog, Peter Lattman fiddled with the timestamps of various posts, so that this post would run at the top of the page (even though other posts were published after it chronologically).
Official Attacks Top Law Firms Over Detainees [New York Times]
Bush Lawyer Blasts Law Firms For Representing Detainees [WSJ Law Blog]
Eye of the Storm: Charles “Cully” Stimson [Kenyon College]