Cully Stimson Should be Ashamed

Cully Stimson Should be Ashamed

Underhanded dirty tricks to punish or intimidate one’s political enemies is nothing new in politics. Richard Nixon had his "dirty tricks" squad including people like Charles Colson & Gordon Liddy. Lyndon Johnson had his Bobby Baker and political administrations over time have had their "junk yard dogs’ – aidesStimson_revised who leaked damaging information to press about an opponent or who made public attacks on a political opponent, leaving the politician free to disavow any connection. The Bush administration has used this technique with greater enthusiasm and more brazenly then any other recent administration. The most recent notable example is Karl Rove’s leak to the media in what came to be known as the "Plame affair." The identity of Valarie Plame (Wilson) as a covert agent of the CIA was leaked to a national journalist. This was done to discredit her husband Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador, who had been directed by the CIA to investigate whether Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium yellowcake from Niger. Wilson found there was "nothing to the story" and presented his report. But, the Bush administration nevertheless claimed it was true and listed it as a primary justification for invading Iraq. Wilson went public in a book about this duplicity and the administration attacked Wilson. Through Rove it then leaked his wife’s identity to the media destroying her career with the CIA and putting her in danger. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was the key supporter of the Patriot Act and demonized defense lawyers and anyone opposing it as unAmerican. These are only a few of the very many similar underhanded attacks made by this administration on people opposing its position on issues.

Now the administrations Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs has urged business clients to boycott firms who have provided free legal care to Guantanamo prisoners. He listed the firms and said the business clients should stop doing business with the law firms. This was quickly followed by his boss, the Pentagon, disavowing any connection with the attempted intimidation. Sounds like a politics as usual with this administration.

The dirty trick agent was Charles "Cully" Stimson who grew up in rural Maryland and obtained his law degree from George Mason University. Married with two children, he has acted as an assistant U.S. Attorney, been an adjunct law professor at George Mason, and a judge advocate general in the Naval Reserve. He also has ties to Seattle, serving on the executive committee of a Seattle family business. At age 42, he was appointed in January of last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs. As such he became the Pentagon’s point man on detainee policy. His position was created following the scandal of Abu Ghraib to pacify the outcry about the military’s treatment of prisoners there. Some 90,000 people are being held by the U.S as prisoners.

Stimson replaced Matthew Waxman who transferred to the State Department over the controversy involving Directive 2310, one of the policies governing the Pentagon’s care of prisoners. President Bush had issued a February 2002 order declaring prisoners from the Afghanistan war were not entitled to Geneva Convention protections. Waxman had urged insertion in Directive 2310 language from the Geneva Convention barring cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment, but there was substantial opposition from the President down and Waxman was soon gone. Ultimately, Mr. Bush did reluctantly sign the McCain Amendment in December 2005 with similar language. Stimson later said that people being held in Guantanamo could be held there for there for the rest of their lives without due process of law.

On January 11, 2007. Stimson said during a radio interview that "it was shocking" that prestigious law firms in the United States were helping to represent detainees. He then read off a list of the firms. He urged business clients to boycott the firms these lawyers worked in. He insisted that Guantanamo was "probably the most transparent and open location in the world." However, journalists are not allowed to talk to detainees, their photos at the prison are censured and their access strictly controlled. In December, a Federal Judge criticized the system in which people are held without charge and cut off from the world and who have been detained for years in terrible conditions at Guantanamo.

The next day, the Wall Street Journal, wrote an editorial supporting Stimson and calling for a "blackball" of these firms by corporate and business interests. It named the the firms. The editorial said that the legal representations was tilting the fight in favor of Al Qaeda because the legal fees were being subsidized by fees paid by Fortune 500 companies to these firms. He urged that the corporations demand the firms choose between the detainees or the corporations as clients. It lent great weight to the attempted intimidation of the law firms from continuing to provide legal representation.

Of course, the Pentagon rushed to disavow any knowledge or responsibility of their point man and spokesman saying "Mr. Cully Stimson’s comments in a recent media interview about law firms representing Guantanamo detainees do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership."

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the administrations arguments and held that U.S. courts did have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the detention of foreign nationals incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. As a result, there are some five hundred U.S. lawyers who have volunteered to represent detainees for free. This includes Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps who served as defense counsel for Salim Ahmed Hamdan. He appealed a writ of Habeas corpus to the U.S. Supreme Court which found in favor of the prisoner holding U.S. courts did have jurisdiction. Within two weeks of the decision, Swift was punished by being passed over for promotion which ends his military career. This was seen as an object lesson to intimidate any other military defense lawyer. The Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie supplied support lawyers pro bono and were one of the firms listed by Stimson that he said should be blackballed by their business clients.

In the meantime, Stimson’s threats were condemned. The Washington Post wrote an editorial about his threats saying "Most Americans understand that legal representation for an accused is one of the core principles of the American Way." And that "…it’s offensive – shocking to use his word – that Mr. Simpson, a lawyer, would argue that law firms are doing anything other then upholding the highest ethical traditions of the bar by taking on the most unpopular of defendants…And it’s shocking – though not surprising – that this is the person the administration has chosen to oversee detainee policy at Guantanamo."

I couldn’t agree more. I’m not surprised, either. This kind of arrogant attempts to silence critics and intimidate those who stand up for due process of law is common with the Bush administration.

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