Sunday, October 08, 2006


Navy Lt. Commander Charles Swift, military attorney for Salim Hamdan (e.g., the plaintiff in the landmark case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), is out of the Navy (involuntarily) after being denied a promotion to full Commander. The Navy has an "up-or-out" system whereby persons not promoted to Commander are then retired from the Navy. Swift received word he would not be promoted two weeks after defeating the Bush administration in front of the Supreme Court as to the subject of whether the President could unilaterally deprive Hamdan and other detainees of due process rights and the right to a trial in front of a regularly constituted courts (rather than the mutant abominations of justice we call military tribunals). The Seattle Times illuminates just how unjust this decision is:
n the opinion of Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion," given his devotion to the Navy, the law and his client.

But, he said, Swift is part of a long line of Navy defense lawyers "of tremendous distinction" who were not made full commander and "had their careers terminated prematurely."

"He brought real credit to the Navy," said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."

Swift's supervisor, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for Military Commissions, said the career Navy officer had served with distinction.

"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, calling it "quite a coincidence" that the Navy promotion board passed on promoting Swift "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."

In June, the prestigious National Law Journal listed Swift among the nation's top 100 lawyers, with such legal luminaries as former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson, 66; Stanford Law constitutional-law expert Kathleen Sullivan, 50; and former Bush campaign recount attorney Fred Bartlit, 73.

"Quite a coincidence" indeed. Let's be clear: the above accolades show quite clearly that Swift was not denied his promotion because he was unqualified. He was denied it because he was too qualified. Swift was a Pentagon appointee to this case, and apparently they were taken aback by the zeal with which he defended his client. So they got rid of him.

It's also worth noting that this sordid episode obliterates any claim towards the independence of the "military tribunals" that Bush wants to be the ultimate arbiters of guilt and innocent for detainees. Swift did his job as a defense attorney for the military. And he was kicked out. I'm quite confident all the other JAGs and military personnel who would be assigned to defend alleged terrorists have got the message loud and clear.

In the spirit of a true Navy lawyer, Swift says that he would do it all over again, even if he knew that defending Hamdan woul lead to the premature end of his military service. Good for him. And thanks to the broke no dissent culture of the Bush administration, the Navy has lost one of its best.


Anonymous said...

It would help if you knew anything about the military. LCDR Swift had been in the military for 20 years but had only made the rank of LCDR (O-4). That would indicate that he had been past over for promotion before and had finally hit what is called a "retention point." There is not way that he came for review for CDR (O-5) for the first time while at 19 years of active duty.

My guess is that somewhere in the past he received a bad review or that he had failed to punch on of the tickets that the military requires of all officers.

I guess it just makes a better story to blame the Bush Administration instead of asking about his entire military career. I thought "progressives" were suppose to be so much smarter than everyone else that they knew everything.

Anonymous said...

Or he already had a reputation for letting little things like ethics get in the way of being a 'team player'. Perhaps that's why he was given the thankless task of defending Hamdeen (sp?). Who knew he'd be so good at it?

Ivan Ludmer said...

Does that really fit the narrative? Theoretically, the Navy purported to exist here would prefer that Hamdan be represented by someone without "a reputation for letting little things like ethics get in the way of being a 'team player.'" It looks like there's a little rush to judgment going on here, though David does raise some important concerns.

Anonymous said...

Hey "anonymous--" you're not impressing anyone with your use of military terminology.

Maybe if you had a real case to make, you wouldn't have to hide behind a wall of legalistic gobbledygook.

Anonymous said...

Hey you can look up LCDR Swift's biography here

There is nothing that indicates that he was on the fast track based upon his assignments. You will notice no general staff, no DC assignments, no joint assignments.

There is still the question of whether he punched all of his tickets. If you use Yahoo to search his image, you will also see that he is a little of the fat side. Another thing that hurts his promotion possibilities.