There’s a new ruling on the Guantanamo detainees and their relationship with their lawyers out of the DC Circuit. Andy McCarthy notes that the NYT has, as usual, spun it as a dramatic rout of the Bush administration when in fact it looks to him (and to me) that both sides won a few arguments.
Skipping the Times’ spin on it, I went straight to the text of the ruling (pdf here). I’ll leave the legal analysis to the specialists in this area like McCarthy, but I found a pretty big news nugget stuffed down on page 18. The Government was seeking to control what information lawyers could communicate to their clients–they wanted to make sure that it was limited to legal filings and documents and not chit-chat and world news. Well, actually, they already prohibited that; now they want to be able to examine the text of documents sent from lawyers to detainees in order to enforce it. Here’s why, emphasis mine:
The Government responds that while the Status Quo Order was in
effect, some counsel — though the Government does not suggest counsel for the present petitioners — did use legal mail to inform their clients about prohibited subjects, including military operations in Iraq, terrorist attacks, Hezbollah’s attack upon Israel, and the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. The Government asserts such information can “incite detainees to violence” or cause “unrest,” such as a riot, hunger strike, or suicide — as, indeed, it has done in the past.
Sounds like a news hook to me–especially since it tends to spread some blame for the detainee media-stunt suicides onto big-mouth defense lawyers. What’s more, the Court agreed with the government on this one:
Regrettably, however, we cannot disagree with the Government that past breaches of the Status Quo Order by some counsel for detainees justify the Government’s proposal to narrow the topics about which all counsel may correspond with a detainee and to hold all counsel accountable by screening the legal mail they send to their detainee clients.
Can’t say I’m surprised at all. I’ve been following this OJ-trial legal circus for a while now. Given that one of the Gitmo lawyers is Tookifying these jailbirds by publishing the poems they scribbled on styrofoam cups, and given that another supposedly “pro bono” firm actually undertook a PR operation on the detainees’ behalf on the Kuwaiti government’s dime, it’s not a big stretch to see them sneaking in a little outside information.
And yet, despite all this work on their behalf –and this fact was alluded to in this latest ruling–the detainees just aren’t warming up to their lawyers.
PS: Note to media types reading this: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles D. Stimson spoke out about the Gitmo lawyers back in January and lost his job as a result. San Francisco lawyers, free speech champions all, have even tried to yank his California bar license for daring to suggest that all was not hunky-dory with attorney-detainee relations. But more and more information is coming out to vindicate him. Don’t you think he ought to get a little air time to explain himself? I’d love to hear what he has to say now, even if it’s just “told ya so”.