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First, let's kill all the lawyers

As the legions of faithful readers of this blog have probably figured out by now, I'm a fairly opinionated sort.  When I first thought of writing a blog, I briefly contemplated doing a political one.  I chose to do a legal one instead, and although there are any number of legal issues with political overtones, I decide to avoid those for the most part, and stick to Ohio law, keeping my opinions to myself on those issues.

Until this weekend, when I read the comments of Cully Stimson, a Pentagon official who holds the title of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs.  In an interview with Federal News Radio the other day, Stimson launched into a discussion of the major law firms which are providing pro bono legal assistance to the Guantanamo detainees:

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.

And who should be shocked about it?

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.

We certainly do.  And lest there be any doubt about who's wearing the black hats here, Stimson hinted darkly that instead of this being done pro bono, somebody -- somebody, oh, who maybe uses a prayer rug and faced east five times a day -- could be providing quid for the quo:  when asked who was paying the firms for the work, 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 monies from who knows where, and I'd be curious to have them explain that.

At this point, a confession:  I am not the most impartial of political observers.  I became convinced at least six months ago that President Bush has taken to roaming the halls of the White House at night and talking to the pictures; I watched his speech last week mainly to see if he'd be rolling steel balls in his hand.  So it might be that I am exaggerating the import of Stimson's comments.  Maybe he's really some insignificant toady, his impressive-sounding title actually putting him no higher on the organizational chart than the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Pentagon Cafeteria Luncheon Meat Selection.  Maybe it's no big deal.

I don't think so, though.  What I do think is this:  any administration which had a shred of respect for constitutional liberties would quickly usher Stimson out the door, telling him that there was no place for his odious threats of a boycott against lawyers who are undertaking to represent the undesirables, a tradition that goes back to John Adams defending the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre.

But this is an administration which has insisted that it has the right to declare anyone an enemy combatant, to hold them indefinitely without trial or charges, to engage in surveillance without warrant or other authorization, all without interference or oversight by the other two branches.  A few days before he gave his speech last week announcing Operation Let's All Clap Our Hands and Wish Real Hard, our Maximum Leader issued a signing statement to a postal appropriations bill, informing us that he reserved the right to open anybody's mail if he deemed it necessary.

So I don't think Mr. Stimson will have to worry about hitting the unemployment line.  I guess he figured that after the Administration took on the 4th Amendment and habeas corpus, the 6th Amendment was fair game, too.

One thing I do know, though.  One of the firms that does the pro bono work for the detainees is the Washington firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.  They're also representing Scooter Libby, the aide to Dick Cheney who goes on trial this week in the Valerie Plame affair.  Gotta figure that Scooter's not going to be participating in the boycott.

And they say irony is dead.


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