Friday, December 14, 2007

"Pro Bono" Gitmo Lawyers?

Sure, if you believe in the Tooth Fairy. Here are a couple of passages from a piece written by Deborah Burlingame, whose husband was a victim of the 9/11 terrorists.

...Mr. Mutairi was among 12 Kuwaitis picked up in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo Bay in 2002. Their families retained Tom Wilner and the prestigious law firm of Shearman & Sterling early that same year. Arguably, it is Mr. Wilner's aggressive representation, along with the determined efforts of the Kuwait government, that has had the greatest influence in the outcome of all the enemy combatant cases, in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. The lawsuit filed on their behalf, renamed Rasul v. Bush when three cases were joined, is credited with opening the door for the blizzard of litigation that followed.

...How did Shearman & Sterling get tapped for this historic assignment? Speaking at Seton Hall Law School in fall of 2006, Mr. Wilner recounted that he visited the facility at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, months before he met the Kuwaiti 12's families. What was Mr. Wilner doing at Gitmo more than two years before Rasul established the legal basis for lawyers getting access to detainees inside the camp? One of his Gitmo legal colleagues has said that Mr. Wilner was brought into the case by an oil industry client.

It turns out that Shearman & Sterling, a 1,000-lawyer firm with offices in 19 cities all over the world, has substantial business dealings on six continents. Indeed, Shearman's client care for Middle Eastern matters has established a new industry standard: The firm's Abu Dhabi office states that it has pioneered the concept of "Shariah-compliant" financing. In Kuwait, the firm has represented the government on a wide variety of matters involving billions of dollars worth of assets. So the party underwriting the litigation on behalf of the Kuwaiti 12--from which all of the detainees have benefited--is one of Shearman & Sterling's most lucrative OPEC accounts.

"Follow the money" is usually a very good first step when asking questions.

I have yet to understand the alternative-universe theory which applies the Constitution's protections to non-citizen/illegal combatants. Obviously, $2 million or so in fees can make black into white.

The blogger who's following this, JunkYard, has more:

One of the fairly shocking things Burlingame uncovered was the existence of a crisis PR program designed to demonize Guantanamo and rehabilitate the image of the detainees, funded by the Kuwaiti government. Nothing illegal, but still: wouldn't you want to know where this is coming from?

The existence of a PR campaign on behalf of the Gitmo detainees doesn't mean that everything is peachy keen there, or that abuses of rights never take place. It also doesn't mean the lawyers defending the detainees are bad people. But it's just one of those things, like figuring out that Linda Greenhouse's husband is one of the Gitmo lawyers, [Greenhouse is the SCOTUS reporter for the NYTimes] that at the very least provides some crucial context about events there and the coverage they receive.

HT: JunkYardBlog

No comments: