Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stimson's Artful Apology

Charles D. "Cully" Stimson has issued what he calls an apology to the lawyers and firms representing Guantanamo detainees by way of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post:
During a radio interview last week, I brought up the topic of pro bono work and habeas corpus representation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not.

I believe firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel. I support pro bono work, as I said in the interview. I was a criminal defense attorney in two of my three tours in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. I zealously represented unpopular clients -- people charged with crimes that did not make them, or their attorneys, popular in the military. I believe that our justice system requires vigorous representation.

I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs.

This "apology" looks very artful to me. As I read it, the only thing he really apologizes for is the careless (and probably unscripted and unauthorized) suggestion that terrorists are paying the detainees' lawyers' fees. The rest of his letter simply affirms a general support for pro bono legal work (oddly, he thinks that his work in criminal defense with Navy JAG demonstrates his commitment to pro bono representation) and a belief in its role in "our legal system." Since Guantanamo can hardly be said to be operating as a part of "our legal system" these remarks do not really address, and certainly do not confirm, the importance of zealous representation for the detainees.

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