Livin' it up, American style

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Really, what good lawyer these days isn't a card carrying member of the al-Qaeda Bar Association?

Charles Stimson was in the news again today; you may remember him from the headlines a few days ago. He is the deputy assistant of defense who is in charge of the US's military detainee program. About a week ago, Stimson expressed his dismay that lawyers at several of the nation's top law firms were representing prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. He called upon corporations to not use these law firms, and even named the names of the firms, which were also listed in a Wall Street Journal editorial. According to Stimson, corporations need to choose between using reputable law firms, and law firms that support terrorists. Because, clearly, everyone in Guantanamo is a terrorist, despite there never being any trials or hearings, cause that whole 'innocent until proven guilty' thing doesn't apply to military prisoners. I mean duh, why would it?

Stimson also commented that some of the lawyers representing the detainees were getting paid, and that he was curious to know where the money was coming from and called on the lawyers to disclose this info. Well, it turns out all of the lawyers are working pro-bono, so clearly no one is being paid off by al-Qaeda or Tehran, or whichever evil entity Stimson thought was funding these lawyers.

Fortunately, Stimson saw the error of his ways and apologized today for his statements, saying they don't really reflect his personal views and core beliefs. That's good, considering that he himself is a lawyer, and one of the fundamental tenets of the judicial system is equal treatment under the law. It's also good because currently, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff, is being represented by one of these 'terrorist' law firms in his trial for his role in the Valerie Plame affair. Perhaps this is why Stimson's statements were not very well received in the White House, which tried to distance itself from his comments.

But really, the White House didn't have to embrace this viewpoint at all, because the damage was already done. The list of law firms was printed in a national newspaper, and aired on a Washington area radio station aimed at government workers. Many of these lawyers will probably experience some lost revenue and bad publicity, even though they were trying to remedy what many people see as a miscarriage of justice by the White House in not allowing the military detainees to have lawyers. If you say something controversial, and then wait 5 days to retract your statement, it's hard to believe you are really that sorry about it.


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