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. "This is prejudicial to the administration of justice," said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an authority on legal ethics. "It's possible that lawyers willing to undertake what has been long viewed as an admirable chore will decline to do so for fear of antagonizing important clients. "We have a senior government official suggesting that representing these people somehow compromises American interests, and he even names the firms, giving a target to corporate America."The article reports that Stimson made the statements on a radio show-- Federal News Radio- that has mostly federal employees as its listener base. (Listen to the interview here The Wall Street Journal's (WSJ) editorial page, on Friday, in an article, by Robert L. Pollock, THE GITMO HIGH LIFE, suggesting that all is rosy in Gitmo, for prisoners, echoed the talking point, actually listing leading fortune 500 law firms that provide pro bono work defending accused terrorists, suggesting, almost encouraging,
"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 infavor 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.This is like the rightwingers who post the address of activists or whistleblowers they don't like. Only it's the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Now, most people know, the news section of the WSJ, is among the best, and that the editorial page is where they let their nutjobs and wackos loose, and where they pander to the right wing extremist readers-- many corporatist uber-rich, uber-tax-dodging American parasites. But it is truly amazing that they would actually attack the big law firms with the integrity to do the difficult job of defending those who are being subjected to the worst of abuses of Democracy and justice this nation has seen in a long time. It has been several months, perhaps since the November elections, since I've posted an article that was categorized under the Fascism/Can't Happen Here subject page. But this news, this talking point the Bush administration is clearly pushing into the echo chamber is a bone-chillingly dangerous one that must be responded to with vehemence.
"He (Stimson) does approve, he says, of some pro bono work by lawyers. He identifies the "worthwhile" tasks that lawyers can take on, such as work for "homeless people, people who have been abused in domestic violence cases, et cetera." But representing people held without trial for five years is apparently beyond the pale of permissible do-gooding, since the deputy secretary expresses total certainty that there are now no innocent people among the 395 prisoners left on the base. The assault on the law firms is despicable. I know of not one firm who is being paid to do this work. Who does the DoD think is paying them? Does Osama bin Laden have a bank account dispensing $300 an hour to everyone? These attorneys do the work because, unlike some, they believe in justice and the rule of law, and are upholding their oaths as lawyers. Meanwhile, despite the DoD intimation that all these prisoners were responsible for September 11 nobody has yet been formally charged, or allowed a trial. But an academic review by Seton Hall law school of the military's informal allegations demonstrates that with regard to 55% of the prisoners, not even the military contends that they committed a hostile act against the United States. However, it is the deputy secretary's suggestion that American businesses should be angry because their "bottom line" suffered on account of September 11 that is most perverse. Surely any sane American (and anyone else, for that matter) should more incensed about the 3,000 innocent people who died than some corporations' incidental loss in income. To suggest that American businesses should fire their legal team because lawyers are standing up for justice is reprehensible, reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy's attempt to blacklist many fellow Americans as communists in the 1950s. Perhaps a more appropriate inquiry would be to ask who in the Bush administration authorised these extraordinary DoD comments."While the Democratic victory in congress has offered potential for hope, these are still very dangerous times. There are still thousands of Bush appointees, like Stimson, running hundreds of organizations and agencies, sitting as judges, who are so misguided, if not downright sociopathic in their way of viewing the world and in their alliance with the evil that emanates from the White house-- it is no time to fool ourselves that things are as they should be. We are at the very beginning of a road that still holds many dangers. The sky has grown lighter. The most ominous clouds have dispersed, but people like Stimson, who would crush democracy and wipe his butt with the constitution-- the one Bush has called "just a piece of paper" are legion. They must be exposed for what they are traitors to democracy, dangers to freedom and despicable enemies of the America the founders envisioned. If this was a right wing site, this article would probably include Stimson's home address (and that is not encouragement for a commenter to post it.) Stimson deserves to go down in history ignominiously, as enabler of those who weakened and sabotaged the rights to justice and freedom. He's a small cog compared to McCarthy, but if finds a place in the history books, it should be one that brands him and his family with shame. And if I were to leave the accusation at this one man Stimson's feet, that would not be enough. He is just one part of the system that gets this message out-- a powerful man, but just one cog in the vile system these scourges upon justice use to further their vile goals aimed at reshaping America in an image that is more friendly and convenient for corporations and the wealthiest members of society. We can fight him by letting fortune 500 companies know that we want them to encourage their law firms to serve justice by defending those whose defense is most difficult, most likely to produce adverse PR.