This is a great step forward for civil rights and detainee policy – as well as a well-deserved achievement by a fantastic blogger:
The Obama administration has chosen a lawyer and Iraq War veteran who has denounced U.S. detention policy to direct detainee affairs at the Department of Defense.
Until starting at the Pentagon this week, Phillip E. Carter, 33, was an associate at New York’s Park Avenue law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge. He specialized in government contracting and national security regulation.
A former Army captain, he also blogged on national security issues at a Washington Post website, Intel Dump.
In 2005-06, he served in Iraq with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division as an advisor to the Iraqi police.
On his return, he shared some lessons he learned in a radio interview aired on National Public Radio.
One tip: ”Diplomacy is more important than force,” he said. “Force creates more enemies than it removes. For every one insurgent you kill you create maybe 10 or 20 Iraqis with blood debts against the U.S.”
Carter left the Army after nine years in both active duty and as a reservist with military police and civil affairs units.
In October 2004, when the Pentagon said intelligence indicated that some former Guantánamo detainees had ”returned to the battlefield,” Carter blamed policy ”blowback” from a White House decision to “shred the Geneva Conventions.”
”It hardly takes an expert to say that the way to win the war on terrorism is not to create more of it,” he wrote in a commentary published on Slate.com. “But the haphazard, extralegal, credulous policies at Guantánamo have done just that.”
His new post — deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs — was created by the Bush administration to oversee and develop detention policies after the public saw leaked photos of guards brutalizing detainees at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
Phil Carter is an absolute legal blog rockstar and he will bring a true conscience with him to this post. It should be noted that the creation of the Detainee Affairs post was largely an Orwellian excercize by the Bush Administration, because far from regulating the policy and acting as an advocate for the detainees, the appointees under Bush were enablers for continued abuse and torture.
Case in point, Carter’s predecessor Charles Stimson, took the rather astounding position that any law firm providing legal representation to detainees in Guantanamo Bay was betraying America and should be boycotted. Stimson was roundly condemned by legal organizations and the Pentagon distanced itself from his remarks as well:
A Defense Department official has stirred up a maelstrom in the American legal community by calling on corporate America to boycott law firms that help represent captives at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Speaking to a morning radio talk show Thursday, Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, rattled off a list of some of the most prestigious law firms in the nation.
Each apparently has attorneys providing pro-bono, or no-charge, legal representation to captives at the U.S. Navy Base, where the Bush administration is holding some 395 men and teens as enemy combatants.
“It’s shocking, ” said Stimson, 43, a former federal attorney and Navy lawyer. “The major law firms in this country . . . are out there representing detainees.”
By late Friday, major U.S. legal advocacy groups condemned his remarks — and a senior defense official distanced the Pentagon from them as well.
[…] “Mr. Cully Stimson’s comments in a recent media interview about law firms representing Guantánamo detainees do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership, ” said Bryan Whitman, the senior Pentagon spokesman.
[…] Miami defense attorney Neal Sonnett, who has not worked on the cases but has been an American Bar Association observer at Guantánamo, called Stimson’s remarks “irresponsible” and “shameful.”
“It’s not only an attack on corporate America, ” he said, “but an attack on the rule of law.”
[…] Sonnett described pro-bono representation of someone who can’t defend himself — regardless of a captive’s guilt or innocence — as a bedrock American value.
Also Friday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote President Bush a letter of protest, calling Stimson’s remarks “reprehensible” and “especially appalling . . . from a senior defense official responsible for U.S. detention policy.”
The American Bar Association issued a statement Friday condemning the comments.
“Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law, ” said ABA President Karen J. Mathis.
[…] “What Mr. Stimson condemns are precisely the values we should be trying to defend in the war on terror, ” said ACLU National Director Steven R. Shapiro.
I don’t have much to add beyond what the statements above had to say on Stimson’s uttery shameful attempt at browbeating the legal profession from performing its duty under our rule of law system, but it does certainly illustrate the kind of thinking that pervaded the Bush Administration. Obama’s Administration promises change, a return to true American values – and Phil Carter’s appointment to what had been an Orwellian post in the prior Administration is solid evidence that we are moving back to where we need to be.
Related: The International Committee of the Red Cross has concluded after review of statements by medical officers who were physically present during interrogations that the treatment of detainees in CIA secret prisons was “inhuman”. Here’s the full report (PDF).