By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
A Pentagon official who criticized large U.S. law firms for representing terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has apologized for his comments, saying that his discussion on a local radio program does not reflect his "core beliefs."
Charles D. "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said yesterday that he regrets what he told Federal News Radio on Thursday, when he suggested that chief executives of U.S. companies should question being represented by lawyers who do pro bono work for terrorism suspects. The Washington Post editorial page reported Stimson's comments Friday.
In a letter to the editor that appears today on The Post's editorial page, Stimson said he believes that both sides of a legal case should have "competent legal counsel." Stimson is a former prosecutor and defense lawyer.
"Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo," Stimson wrote. "I do not."
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that Stimson's original comments "do not reflect the department's position, nor are they the views of the senior leadership."
The remarks drew condemnation on the floor of the Senate yesterday from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and more than 130 law school deans have signed an Internet petition declaring themselves "appalled" by them.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales pointed at the detainees' attorneys himself yesterday, telling the Associated Press that their numerous challenges have delayed trials for their clients at Guantanamo Bay.
In an interview with The Post later yesterday, Gonzales said the remarks were "not intended as criticism of defense attorneys doing their jobs" but were "a statement of reality."
"We had to fight many legal battles to get where we are today," he said.
Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.