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Monday, January 15, 2007

Guantanamo "probably the most transparent and open location in the world"

Summer blog

Well, so says the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, Charles Stimson.

Stimson was interviewed last Thursday by a Washington radio station that provides programming primarily for Federal public servants, but his comments suggesting that US companies boycott law firms that are providing assistance to Guantanamo detainees has become a national news story. It also has the Pentagon and the White House on the front foot today seeking to distance themselves from his comments. They "do not represent the views of the Department or the thinking of its leadership" a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday.

The story has an FOI background: a conservative radio talk show host had obtained access under FOI to the names of law firms that had provided representation for detainees. Stimson brought the names to a broader audience saying that he found it "shocking that lawyers at many of the nations top law firms were involved, and that corporations should "make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms". Stimson suggested that while some firms might be providing services pro bono "others are receiving monies from who knows where and I'd be curious to have them explain that".

The response has been strong and pointed: the American Judicature Society said that it was a "blatant attempt to intimidate lawyers and their firms who are rendering important public service in upholding the rule of law and our democratic ideals". The Washington Post editorialised (12 January) that what was shocking "though perhaps not surprising - that this is the person the Administration has chosen to oversee detainee policy at Guantanamo". The New York Times editorial (13 January - under the heading "Round up the usual lawyers") said "the interview was a greatest-hits remix of Bush Administration nonsense about Guantanamo", and that his threats were "appalling".

While some firms may have received payments from families of detainees, the consensus is that the vast majority are providing services free of charge. One firm that received payment has donated all of it to charities connected with victims of the September 11 attack.

By the way, the comment about transparency and openness apparently was based on the fact that more than 2000 journalists have visited Guantanamo since it opened 5 years ago. The Washington Post today says journalists however 'are not allowed to talk to detainees on those visits, their photos are censored, and their access to the base has at times been cut off".

All those in Australia who have expressed concern about Guantanamo, and particularly the Australian David Hicks, might be interested to know that Stimson in the interview, according to The Washington Post, discounted international outrage over the detention centre as "small little protests around the world" that were "drummed up by Amnesty International' and inflated in importance by liberal news outlets.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:33 am

    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!