Defending Liberty at Guantanamo

It's good to know that the uniformed defenders of our liberty are doing their best for their clients at Guantanamo. And their best is awfully good.

When President Bush announced plans for military commission trials in 2001, critics said military defense lawyers would not put up much of a fight on behalf of men labeled terrorists. “They wanted us to just be good little boys,” one of the lawyers, Maj. Michael D. Mori of the Marines, once told an interviewer.

But nearly seven years later, not one trial has been held, partly because the military defense lawyers have raised a continuous ruckus, challenging the commission system rather than simply defending their clients.

Raising a ruckus is exactly what defense lawyers need to do when confronted with injustice. Listen to Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler:

The Bush administration’s war crimes system “is designed to get criminal convictions” with “no real evidence,” Commander Kuebler says. Or he lets fly that military prosecutors “launder evidence derived from torture.”

“You put the whole package together and it stinks,” he said in an interview.

This from a conservative born-again Christian who has never voted for a Democrat. But respect for the Constitution transcends political parties ... at least, it should.

Kuebler is following the time honored defense strategy of irritating the prosecutors by calling attention to their unjust antics.

But the irritation strategy seems to be driving the prosecutors to distraction.

Cool. That's what it's supposed to do.

The defense lawyers face criticism for delaying the show-trials the Bush administration would like to hold, but they deserve credit for insisting on real trials with real protections for the accused.

If there is a trial, he said, he expects Mr. Khadr to be convicted. “I don’t believe it is a fair process,” Commander Kuebler said.

More examples of military defense lawyers doing their job:

Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, an Air Force reservist from Pennsylvania, was once nearly sent to the brig when she angered a military judge by asserting that legal ethics barred her from participating in the proceedings.

Commander Mizer, the fourth-generation military man in his family, challenged a Pentagon general by filing a successful claim that the general had exerted unlawful influence over the commissions.

After Major Mori made seven trips to Australia on behalf of the detainee David Hicks, an Australian Qaeda trainee, the chief military prosecutor at the time suggested that the major could be prosecuted for using “contemptuous words” against American leaders.

In Australia, Major Mori had told audiences that Guantánamo commissions were “kangaroo courts” and that Mr. Hicks was “like a monkey in a cage.” In 2007, after Australia’s prime minister at the time, John Howard, came under pressure over the case, the United States government reached a plea deal. Mr. Hicks was soon released. Major Mori was not prosecuted, and is now serving in Iraq.

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    At least some area of the government (none / 0) (#1)
    by MO Blue on Thu Jun 19, 2008 at 10:19:57 AM EST
    respects the Constitution. Kudos to the military defense lawyers and much appreciation. Could they possibly go and teach the Congress what respect for the Constitution is all about? Many of them have seemed to forgotten.    

    So very impressive (none / 0) (#2)
    by txpublicdefender on Thu Jun 19, 2008 at 03:44:52 PM EST
    Don't forget Charles Swift, whose military legal career was ended when he was passed over for promotion after successfully arguing one of the detainee cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Why would the military want a lawyer who was that good, after all?

    I must say that, throughout this whole wretched, disgusting affair of military commissions and tribunals and enemy combatants and whatever other faux legal term the Bush administration gives these proceedings, I have been impressed beyond measure by the uniformed lawyers acting on behalf of the detainees.  As bad as the process has been, I cannot imagine what it would have been like without them.  What a credit they are to the military justice system--and by "military justice system," I mean the real one that existed before this sham.  They have lived up to and beyond their ethical duties.  They are true patriots.

    I am so proud of these guys (none / 0) (#3)
    by MichaelGale on Thu Jun 19, 2008 at 08:55:42 PM EST
    Sometimes government seems so bad that it disgusts.
    We rationalize our expectations as too idealistic, that we expect too much.

    Well, these men are so honorable to stand up for their country when their leaders would not.

    This makes me feel good and proud.