The bureaucrat in charge of Guantanamo Bay policy tries to start some dark rumors about the law firms assisting in defending the detainees there. He suggests that companies might want to boycott the law firms, and worse, implies they might be funded by terrorists themselves. Because rule of law is a scary, scary concept.
Fortunately, most everybody seems outraged over this. The Washington Post wrote a scathing editorial that describes what, exactly, was said:
MOST AMERICANS understand that legal representation for the accused is one of the core principles of the American way. Not, it seems, Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. 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."
Condemnation has been fast and furious, from a variety of sources. Steve Benen, Michael Froomkin, Lindsay Beyerstein, Kevin Drum and Paul Horwitz aptly represent the liberals. On the right, we have critcism from Eugene Volokh, Andrew Sullivan, and Jonathan Adler.
Adler says that the administration official might just have been shooting from the hip, rather than expressing an official view. Potentially. But as Horwitz points out (via The WSJ Law Blog), another story in the Wall Street Journal also quoted a "senior administration official" making similar noises. That doesn't make it a policy, of course, but it starts to look more like a talking point (of one of the more abhorrent varieties). So while Adler is looking for quick repudiation from the administration, that seems very unlikely.
Other voices on the matter:
Gun Toting Liberal
Amazingly, I did not find a single person--left or right--defending Mr. Stimson. Then again, outside the VC contributors and Mr. Sullivan (both relatively moderate and always thoughtful and fair-minded), I didn't see any conservative bloggers talking about it either.