Guantanamo Intimidation

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

CULLY STIMSON may be gone from the Pentagon, but his spirit unfortunately lives on. Mr. Stimson, you may recall, was the Pentagon official in charge of Guantanamo Bay prisoners who had to leave his post after suggesting that private law firms shouldn't be representing detainees. Now the Pentagon's chief Guantanamo prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, has gotten into the attack-the-defense-lawyers act, this time complaining about the conduct of a military lawyer assigned to defend Australian David Hicks, who has been accused of terrorism. Mr. Hicks, who has spent five years at Guantanamo after allegedly being caught fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, was charged last week with providing material support for terrorism and is to face trial before a military commission.

Mr. Hicks's outspoken military lawyer, Marine Maj. Michael Mori, has spent a good deal of time in Australia helping stir up public support for his client, and he has been unsparing in his criticism of the military tribunals, going so far as to call them kangaroo courts. His needling clearly is getting under the prosecution's skin. "Certainly in the U.S. it would not be tolerated having a U.S. Marine in uniform actively inserting himself into the political process. It is very disappointing to see that happening in Australia, and if that was any of my prosecutors, they would be held accountable," Col. Davis was quoted as telling The Australian newspaper. Col. Davis, though he later said he wasn't suggesting a court-martial, noted that it is a crime under military law for an officer to use "contemptuous words" about high public officials.

Col. Davis's unsubtle effort to quiet Maj. Mori may be even more disturbing than Mr. Stimson's remarks: It's not likely that private law firms are going to be intimidated out of representing their clients, but military lawyers who have to fear for their careers might think twice before zealously representing their clients. "Recent statements attributed to both the defense and prosecution in the David Hicks case do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense," Pentagon press officer Cynthia O. Smith told us when we called for comment. Okay, but it's the prosecution that really needs reining in.

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