Discouraging Detainee Defense:

Paul Horwitz notes that the issue of which law firms are defending detainees also made it into a Wall Street Journal column by Robert Pollock on "The Gitmo High Life." The bulk of the column discusses the relatively comfortable treatment at least many of the Guantanamo detainees receive. Yet the article also picks up on the suggestion of an "administration official" that law firm representation of detainees should be a "scandal."

Guantanamo detainees don't lack for legal representation. A list of lead counsel released this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request reads like a who's who of America's most prestigious law firms: Shearman and Sterling; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr; Covington & Burling; Hunton & Williams; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cleary Gottlieb; and Blank Rome are among the marquee names.

A senior U.S. official I spoke to speculates that this information might cause something of scandal, since so much of the pro bono work being done to tilt the playing field in favor of al Qaeda appears to be subsidized by legal fees from the Fortune 500. "Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists" who deliberately target the U.S. economy, he opined.

This article should remove any doubt about the meaning of Cully Stimson's remarks and make absolutely clear that at least some within the administration are encouraging corporations to pressure law firms not to represent detainees.

This audio segment from NPR (LvHB) is also worth a listen, and the New York Times chimes in here.

UPDATE: This New York Times news report suggests that not all of the administration is on board with Cully Stimson — or at least not officially.

In an interview on Friday, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said he had no problem with the current system of representation. “Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases,” he said.

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon had any official comment, but officials sought to distance themselves from Mr. Stimson’s view. His comments “do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership,” a senior Pentagon official said. He would not allow his name to be used, seemingly to lessen the force of his rebuke. Mr. Stimson did not return a call on Friday seeking comment.

I have also noticed that Stimson is a graduate of my alma mater, the George Mason University School of Law. [Ack!] I guess he must have slept through professional responsibility; he should have to take it again. Hilzoy is less forgiving: "if either having no clue whatsoever about how our legal system works or being willing to try to subvert it is grounds for disbarment, then Charles Stimson should be disbarred."