Saturday, January 13, 2007

Firestorm over comments made by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs

A former schoolmate of mine from our shared time along the banks of the Bai Yuka in western Maryland, is in the news. Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs (which is equivalent to a three star flag or general officer), was interviewed by a small, AM-radio station in Washington, DC, on Thursday; you can hear the interview here.

Why's he in the news? Well, for comments he made concerning attorneys who represent the Gitmo detainees; the Associated Press, as published in the International Herald News, reported:
Stimson on Thursday told Federal News Radio, a local commercial station that covers the government, that he found it "shocking" that lawyers at many of the United States' top law firms represent detainees.

Stimson listed the names of more than a dozen major firms he suggested should be boycotted.

"And 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," Stimson said.

Asked who might be paying the law firms to represent Guantanamo detainees, Stimson hinted at wrongdoing for which some explaining should be done.

"It's not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they're doing it out of the goodness of their heart — that they're doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are," he said. "Others are receiving monies from who knows where and I'd be curious to have them explain that."
I'd make a comment about Deputy Assistant Secretary Stimson's tone, but perhaps I'd be reading too much into it, as I have known Cully for a long time. Listen yourself. I will say that his language is certainly loaded. He lost me with his comment that the detention center at Gitmo is "certainly probably the most transparent location in the world." When I heard it, I did not believe his words.

When he laid into Amnesty International with sarcasm and disdain in his voice... oh, right, I said I wasn't going to talk about tone. Belay my last.

Anyway, back to Deputy Assistant Secretary Stimson's shock over the pro bono representation of the detainees. It's caused a firestorm.

From John Heilprin of the Associated Press, today:
The Pentagon on Saturday disavowed a senior official's remarks suggesting companies boycott law firms that represent detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Charles "Cully" Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said in a radio interview last week that companies might want to consider taking their business to other firms that do not represent suspected terrorists.

Stimson's remarks were viewed by legal experts and advocacy groups as an attempt to intimidate law firms that provide legal help to all people, even unpopular defendants.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said Stimson was not speaking for the Bush administration.
I wonder; the cynic in my thinks that perhaps he wasn't speaking formally for the administration, but perhaps he was saying things that have been discussed privately.

Nancy B. Rapoport, a professor of law and the former dean of the University of Houston Law Center, notes
In fact, my guess is that those corporate CEOs already know about their law firms’ representation of the accused at Gitmo. I’m reasonably certain that the firms are not undertaking the representation of Gitmo detainees if there is a conflict of interest between the Gitmo representation and the representation of the firms’ other clients. The law firms — and the list of those firms reads like a Who’s Who of major firms — are justifiably proud of their pro bono work. Some of those CEOs (and their general counsel, who likely are key determinants of which firms the corporations use) want to be represented by lawyers who use their considerable skills for paying and non-paying clients alike.
The blogosphere has erupted, too. I first saw this at Jeff Huber's Pen and Sword.
I find it interesting that Mr. Stimson, who was a Navy lawyer, would choose to use that kind of language. We really have no way of knowing which (if any) of the Guantanamo detainees are actually "terrorists," and his clear implication is that some attorneys representing the detainees are being paid by terrorist groups. When he gets a lawsuit slapped upside his noggin, I hope for his sake that he has the good sense to hire a better lawyer than he is.

I'll also be curious to discover who pays his legal fees.
I'd note that I think Mr. Stimson is still a drilling Naval Reservist, although I don't know this for certain.

Posted on another blog was this:
As for deputy assistant blah blah...I wouldn't expect anything else from monkeyboy's peons. Clearly, Bush butt kissing is the primary requirement for employment in monkeyboy's crew...it even trumps unbelievable incompetency. (According to Novack (damn), Condi' is so incompetent at her job...well, he's writing about it.)
Hmmm; just how did he get his job? Well, there was a recent interview in our alumni rag, and they asked that exact question:
Last year, my name was being bandied about as a possible candidate for United States Attorney for Maryland. In fact, I interviewed with Roscoe Bartlett, who is the Republican Congressman from Frederick. He submitted my name to the White House. I was never interviewed. They picked somebody else, a very bright attorney – Rod Rosenstein. I didn’t give it much more thought. I was interviewed for another position, a high level position at the Department of Justice, but didn’t get that position either. I figured always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Then one day last October, I was called by a White House liaison who asked me if I would consider interviewing for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense position. Thinking I might as well get experience interviewing for a high-level position, I really had a very relaxed attitude towards it. I did nine rounds of interviews, ending with an interview with the Secretary of Defense on December 5. Shortly afterward, I got the job offer.
Maybe that's why I'm a humble low-ranking civil servant and he is, at least today, a senior administrative official: when my name is bandied about, it's certainly not by members of Congress, and it's usually not good news.

While the interview is telling, I'll call our collective attention to one more paragraph. When asked what his management style was, Deputy Assistant Secretary Stimson responded,
It’s important to me to create an environment where people thrive and produce the best for the overall mission. I try to be direct and open. I expect people to work the chain of command before it comes to me, to be intellectually rigorous and exact. But I also want them to have fun and realize I have a great sense of humor. I’m no different in the office than I am in my personal life and I’m no different from my personal life than when I wear the uniform. I am myself when I’m in front of the Secretary of Defense and when I brief the Deputy Secretary of Defense every Friday. So I’m comfortable in my own skin. I can’t say I felt that way twenty years ago. I’m sort of an ‘A’ type of personality and a perfectionist, but I have failed in my life at things and understand that’s a necessary part of being a leader. I don’t expect perfection from my people, I just expect honesty.
I wonder what he'll say now about his comments and the firestorm. I don't think he can say he's been quoted out of context; perhaps he'd just expressing his own frustrations and doubts.

Over at discourse.net, the comments are flying
:
Partisan-first, American-second. Does this man belong on taxpayer's payroll?

This type of comment sends chills up the spines of military officers who represent detained people, too (most of them are JAG officers). Mr. Stimson is a high-ranking Navy Reserve JAG officer who teaches at senior service schools as well as being an Assistant Secretary of Defense. It seems from his remarks that he views defense work for Gitmo detainees in a negative light. I hope that his view does not reflect the views of military promotion boards, but it appears that he was not the least bit embarrassed by his remarks, so there many be many others who think the same way. I would hope that people commenting on Mr. Stimson's behavior would consider the impact that his remarks may have on the military justice system and military lawyers, too.
I find it interesting that later in the interview, Deputy Assistant Secretary Stimson suggests that the military lawyers assigned to the detainees are all they need. Okay, that's not what he said, but his meaning was clear: the military attorneys can do their job in terms of representing the detainees. But, ask I, haven't I read about cases where military attorneys who zealously represent their clients, as they are supposed to do, face tough times with promotions and retentions? Being a detainee defense attorney isn't as good for one's career as being the prosecutor.

Speaking of careers, check out this interview and the interviewer's question about why Mr. Stimson took the job.

Well, that's it for now. I do hope that Cully owns up to his comments, re-examines his beliefs, and gets to stay on-the-job. Why do I say I want him on the job? Well, somebody is going to be the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs, and, knowing Cully, he will ultimately to the right thing. I think I'd rather have him, perhaps even as partisan and maybe even misguided that he is, in place. And, let's face it, they're not going to name me...

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