Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Unanswered questions surrounding the Stimson resignation
Last Friday the resignation of Defense Department poobah Charles “Cully” Stimson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, was announced. It followed Stimson's ill-received attempt to bully high-powered law firms that have undertaken the defense of Guantánamo inmates.
Stimson had suggested in a radio interview that companies doing business with these firms might want to cancel their representation and helpfully gave the names of most of the firms. He even hinted darkly that perhaps some of them weren't doing the work for free but were “receiving moneys from who-knows-where.”
Stimson now insists that his decision to resign was reached independently and that he was not asked to leave by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or anyone else. Well, maybe not. But for me his rather pointed statement of an independent decision to resign reinforces an impression that I gleaned from Stimson's apology—that he was acting for, and covering up for, someone higher in the administration.
In his apology Stimson affirmed that—
- he does not "question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo"
- "a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel"
- he "support[s] pro bono work."
He then concluded "I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments [on the radio] do not reflect my core beliefs."
This raises a question that does not seem to have interested reporters: If Stimson's remarks did not reflect his "core beliefs," why did he utter them? To have made the extensive comments in contradiction of his beliefs would seem to require a little more explanation than that it was just a lawyer's equivalent of a bad-hair day.
Former State Dept. employee William Fisher writes that "this is not the first time US military officials have criticized Guantanano defense lawyers" and dug up this interesting tidbit—
In a editorial by Robert L. Pollock, a member of the [Wall Street Journal's] editorial board, quoted an unnamed “senior U.S. official” as saying, “Corporate C.E.O.’s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”
At a time when the MSM is declaring that what is so interesting about the Scooter Libby trial is not the crime itself but the insight it provides into the backroom machinations of the Bush administration, you would think that some enterprising reporter might want to do a little follow-up on the meaning of Stimson's apology.
Wouldn't you like to know the name of that senior U.S. official quoted in the Wall Street Journal? And if the WSJ report is accurate, isn't it even more appropriate for this "senior administration official" to resign as it is for Mr. Stimson?