13 January 2007

Secretary of Defense Gates Should Fire Charles Stimson

In the Pentagon there is a man, Charles Stimson, occupying the position of "Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs." This story in The New York Times suggests that Mr Stimpson, himself a lawyer, seems to not understand that in an adversary system of justice like the one Americans pretend to embrace, even individuals suspected of especially egregious offenses are entitled - yes, entitled - to legal representation. Otherwise we cannot expect the system of justice to work very well. He also seems not to understand that not everyone agrees with the Bush Administration project of subverting international law specifically and the rule of law more generally. His job might be much easier if suspects were not so entitled or if all legal observers shared his presumption that the administration was proceeding unobjectionably. Too bad for Mr. Stimson and his ilk.

Mr. Stimson (abetted by the administration's minions on right-wing talk radio and the Wall Street Journal editorial staff) has taken it upon himself to publically criticize lawyers who are working to represent those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. And he has suggested that the corproate clients of the law firms for whom those lawyers work take their business elsewhere. The choice lawyers (and we, their true clients in all this) face, however, is not the one Mr. Stimson presents - represent terrorists or represent law-abiding clients. Rather, the problem with the detainees whose affiars Mr. Stimson is charged to oversee is that we have nothing beyond the word of the government that they are terrorists or have any links to terrorists. Given their record of dissembling and incompetence, there is little reason why we should assume the administration is credible on this matter. So the choice we actually face is this - proceed credulously or challenge the government to establish its presumption.

The lawyers whom Mr. Stimson is attacking are trying to open up enough legal space to see whether the government view is plausible or not. That is the way things ought to work.
Mr. Stimson is interfering with the administration of justice in an especially blatant way. He should lose his job. Once Secretary of Defense Gates completes his PR tour for the President's "surge" proposal, he should fire Mr. Stimson whose views and actions disqualify him from any position having to do with the adminstration of justice.
PS: (Added just a bit later) I've just come across this short note by Peggy Kohn in Dissent that very nicely articulates how the Bush adminsitration view on legal treatment of detainees subverts basic premises of the rule of law.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree! I can't believe he's the person in charge of detainee affairs, and he doesn't even want to have the appearance of giving these prisoners a trial! I just wrote to the President to make a statement rebuking Stimson's comments.

13 January, 2007 14:40  
Blogger SNAKE HUNTERS said...

Go ahead, write to Washington. They
have a large structure to send out
form letters...

Dear sir, Thank you for your response. We are currently in committee addressing this serious problem...

Thank you for your continued support, bla, bla, bla, etc.

YOU are better off, writing a blog.
Someone out here...Is Listening! reb


13 January, 2007 14:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are outraged by Stimon's comments, believe in habeas corpus and want to repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006 check out:


Join the project!

14 January, 2007 17:23  

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