Now that the Bush administration has been forced to grant trials to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, they’ve decided to take a new tact in preventing them from getting fair trials. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has filed motion in court to limit the access that attorneys have to their clients.
In his motion he claims that that misuse of the mail system is allowing defence attorneys to cause unrest among detainees. The motion claims that they have done everything from telling them about Hezbollah attacks on Israel, the movements of terrorist leaders and abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison.
This they claim has been what’s led to the hunger strikes among detainees and other forms of unspecified unrest. The government wants to limit the number of face-to-face meetings between a lawyer and client to three, and narrow the definition of what constitutes “legal mail”. (What could be legitimately termed as information necessary to preparing a defence case)
In a letter to the Attorney General, the head of The New York City Bar association (at 137 years old and with 23,000 members one of the oldest and largest in the United States), Barry M. Kamins protested that that was an “an astonishing and disingenuous assertion”. He said blaming unrest on the lawyers when many of the prisoners have been in solitary confinement for prolonged periods and have lost hope of ever having the chance for a fair hearing to at least have their side of the story heard amounts to the government shirking any responsibility for their actions causing the unrest.
He went on to say that this was just a continuation of an ongoing attempt by the Bush administration to smear defence attorneys who are willing to represent the detainees. He pointed to remarks made by former deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, Charles Stimson, who said he found it shocking that top law firms in the U.S. would represent defendants held in the prison.
The president of the American Bar Association, Karen J. Mathis, also weighed in and criticized what she called arbitrary restriction on how many times an attorney and client could communicate. She said such actions anywhere would threaten competent representation without advancing national security an iota.
What neither Ms. Mathis or Mr. Kamins understands is that Bush and company don’t really give a rat’s ass about either national security or the rights of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. All they cared about when they picked these folks up was that it looked like they were doing something constructive in the wake of September 11th 2001, and perpetuating the myth that the country and the world were swarming with people set on committing acts of terror against the United States.
Remember, none of these people have ever been charged with any crime accept the nebulous one of being suspected of terrorist activity. Now all of a sudden the American Justice department has to build cases against them that will stand up in a court of law and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty of what they are charged with. Of course they also have to come up with charges as well, but I’m sure they’re creative enough they’ll be able to think of something.
That’s a lot more difficult than turning them over to the mob at Fox News and getting them fitted for lynch nooses. Trying their lawyers in the court of public opinion in the hopes of making them back off from offering a proper defence by painting them with the tar of “unpatriotic” and “traitor” are acts of petty desperation. Anyway what good do they think it will do; people’s opinions of lawyers aren’t going to sink much lower than they are now anyway.
But to actively try and interfere with the client and lawyer relationship goes against all that is holy in the in the criminal court system. There is the small matter of client lawyer confidentiality – will they invoke national security as grounds for reading letters between lawyers and clients in order to prove that a letter has exceeded the definition of “legal mail”?
It appears that the last thing that the Bush administration wants is the people being held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay to have fair trials. Why not? If they are genuinely guilty a fair trial will prove that and they can be thrown in jail for the rest of their lives.
Or could it be that some of these people aren’t guilty and they don’t want to admit to the fact that they have wrongfully imprisoned and probably tortured people for a couple of years now? What are they so afraid of coming out in a trial that they don’t want lawyers to have proper time to prepare their clients for court appearances?
Why doesn’t the office of the Attorney General or the office of the Secretary for Detainee Affairs want good lawyers representing these people? How many cases are they afraid they are going to lose; half, more then half, maybe even three quarters of them? All I can say is that they seem awfully afraid of something and it will be very interesting to watch these cases to see what does come out in court and what the final verdicts will be.
Even if only one or two people are found to be innocent, then those people in the Bush administration responsible for making it possible for these people to be held prisoner without trial for so long need to be brought up on, at the very least, charges of false arrest and unlawful confinement. Some of these people were taken from their homes and families in other countries, so kidnapping should be added to the mix as well.
If there were any justice in the world that would be the case, but I’m not going to hold my breath about that ever happening. The best we can hope for is that people will maybe realize how big a lie the whole war on terror has turned out to be, and the current approach is not only barbaric but useless.