Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More on Hamdan...

Check out some articles on the fascinating backstory to the Hamdan case:
  • See especially the NPR story on the representation of Hamdan by Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal and U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift. This is one of those "lawyers on a mission" stories that initially led me to law school, but it also touches on the institutional resistance that probably drove me away from the legal world. Katyal is a 33 year-old lawyer who had never argued a case before the Supreme Court, and who found himself in charge of one of the most important cases in U.S. history on presidential abuse of power. He would end up pouring in thousands of hours on this case, never getting more than 4 hours sleep a night, and spending $40,000 of his own money. Swift is a military defense lawyer who was appointed on the condition that he secure a guilty plea from his client -- a condition that he felt was unethical. He was eventually forced to file a strategic brief that was an implicit warning to his superiors in the chain-of-command that "there would be repercussions if they decided to gag the lawyers" (one of the ballsiest moves I've ever heard of).

    Meanwhile, Katyal and Swift would find some support in the corporate legal world from the Seattle firm of Perkins Coie, the firm where I worked as a file clerk for a couple of years after college. I'm proud of Perkins for standing up on this one, especially considering the fact that most big firms "were steering clear of Guantanamo cases for fear of being called unpatriotic."

    As it was portrayed in the NPR account, the amount of resistance from the government that the Hamdan team encountered in their entirely righteous quest was, simply put, sickening. It is one of those stories that leaves you wondering how the hell this could be our government. Katyal actually commended the military and the administration for letting them do their jobs, saying that, "in some other country, we might have been shot." I think this is beside the point. The real issue here is a government that has historically claimed absolute dominion over the moral high-ground, and yet is so disturbingly hostile to the basic democratic ideals that they claim to covet (see another article from the Guardian on that particular point).

  • John Dean on the incredibly duplicitous behavior of Sens. Kyl and Graham during the case, of which he said, "I have not seen so blatant a ploy, or abuse of power, since Nixon's reign." Apparently, at some point the two Senators filed an amicus brief in support of a government motion to dismiss, which relied heavily on the record of a conversation between the two on the Senate floor that never actually took place. The entire exchange was inserted into the record after the fact, as though it had happened live, which effectively reversed their prior position on an amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act.

  • Edward Lazarus on the role of government lawyers, which should be more than just being "'whores' who will give intellectual cover to any position, no matter how wrong or unreasonable."

  • Articles by Adam Liptak and David E. Sanger, which supplied many of the administration quotes on detainees and torture that were parodied in this week's 'toon.

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