Two weeks ago, Charles D. Stimpson, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, issued a statement listing the names of a dozen law firms that represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In a radio interview, Simpson said he was making the list public so that the CEOs of corporations who utilized these firms would apply pressure on them to “choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms.”
Stimpson claimed that the cause of detainees was unpopular with American citizens and that the list of major law firms representing the detainees would be considered “shocking.”
Things didn’t turn out quite the way Stimpson intended.
Instead, major companies represented by these firms have come out in support of the pro bono work. Boston Scientific Corp. issued a statement in support of its law firm’s work on behalf of six Bosnian men being held because, “our legal system depends on vigorous advocacy for even the most unpopular causes.”
General Electric says it strongly disagrees with the suggestion that it discriminate against the lawyers assisting detainees, saying, “Justice is served when there is quality representation even for the unpopular.”
Other companies have issued similar statements, and the lawyers report that none of their clients have expressed anything but support for their actions.
Boston-based WilmerHale is a law firm that has been representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay since 2004 at the request of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which coordinates more than five hundred lawyers from one hundred and twenty law firms assisting detainees. Representatives of the firm say that the Pentagon miscalculated. “As time has gone on, it has become plainer that it is an important issue for our justice system. People have been more and more interested in hearing about it. We have been asked to speak at universities, human rights groups, and churches.”
And people aren’t just interested. They’re donating. And some of them are citing the comments that came out of the pentagon as the reason for their donations. Lawyers are using the money to help to defray the costs of defending detainees, some of whom have been imprisoned without charges, trial or other Constitutional protections for more than six years now.
Deputy Stimpson has since apologized for his remarks, but this may not be the end of it.
Baltimore lawyer Billy Murphy, who represents a Kuwaiti detainee, is investigating whether or not publicizing the list of law firms in such a manner was done off the cuff, or as part of a coordinated plan by the pentagon to blacklist lawyers McCarthy-style.