January 25, 2006,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece is expanded from an article that first appeared in the December 5, 2005, issue of National Review.
While some attorneys who defend enemy combatants may be wild-haired, sandal-wearing radicals, most members of the self-styled Guantanamo Bay Bar Association actually are well-heeled, "white-shoe" lawyers with America's premier corporate firms. They are at the top of their profession and enjoy the best this nation has to offer. They were schooled on our finest campuses and are enriched by fees from this country's most successful business clients. Their pro bono services mainly filing habeas corpus petitions in Washington, D.C. to free detainees from military custody are worth perhaps $300 per hour in donated value, last September's American Lawyer estimated. Detainees don't pay a dime, however. By covering their own bills, these firms' Fortune 500 clients, and their shareholders, indirectly subsidize legal aid and comfort to suspected Islamo-fascist terrorists.
Manhattan's Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), co-founded in 1966 by the late, left-wing, wild-haired attorney William Kunstler, has spearheaded legal help for Guantanamo detainees. This advances CCR's self-described progressive agenda:
We continue to craft litigation that exposes the fundamental contradictions in American society that undermine the promise of justice for all: fault lines of race, class and gender; the ascendancy of global corporate privilege over individual rights; the intersection of poverty, race, and industrial pollution; and the indifference with which governments around the world continue to violate the human rights of their citizens.
Enter the counselors in wingtips. Several major multinational law firms are helping CCR vacate Guantanamo before padlocking it:
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, the 11th largest firm in the Am Law Global 100, grossed $911 million last year, The American Lawyer estimates. "We now have 1,300 lawyers practising in seven U.S. cities and six European cities," its website notes. Its clients include Bell South, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Whirlpool, and UAL Corp., the parent company of United Airlines, two of whose airliners al Qaeda agents smashed, respectively, into 2 World Trade Center and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001. This left United's 94 passengers and 16 crewmembers dead.
"'Social Justice' is our own construct," the firm explains. "We consider this to be our 'cutting edge' work...Examples of this work would be the amicus briefs we filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in the so-called Guantanamo Bay cases." Mayer leads John Does 1-570 v. George W. Bush, essentially, a class-action lawsuit involving every enemy combatant at Gitmo not already suing the president for release during wartime.
With offices in Manhattan's landmark Chrysler Building among ten others, Blank Rome offers legal advice to RJ Reynolds, Sunoco, and Boeing, manufacturer of all four passenger jets that al Qaeda weaponized on 9/11. Am Law ranks Blank Rome Earth's 100th largest law practice and believes that it grossed $247.5 million last year. Blank Rome lawyers filed Khaled Abd Elgabar Mohammed Othman et al v. George W. Bush, et al in federal court in Washington, D.C., on October 25 on behalf of a Yemeni "wrongfully designated an 'enemy combatant."
Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips employs 300 among seven offices in California, New York, and Washington, D.C. Among its clients: Alaska Airlines, Anschutz Entertainment, Harley-Davidson, Mattel, Pfizer, and Transport for London, the British agency that runs the London Underground, which al Qaeda bombed July 7, killing 52 commuters. On October 24, Manatt attorneys sued President Bush in federal court on behalf of suspected Islamic extremist Adbulkadar Abdulkhalik Dad.
Shearman & Sterling (Am Law No. 15; $775 million estimated 2005 gross) has some 1,000 attorneys practicing in 19 offices in a dozen countries. Deere & Co., Delphi, Ford, Morgan Stanley, and PG&E are among its corporate clients. Shearman partner Thomas Wilner, lead attorney for 12 Kuwaiti enemy combatants, wants Uncle Sam to compensate detainees for time at Guantanamo. "It would be very nice if they paid the people released at least as much as they paid the bounty hunters for capturing them," Wilner said in the September 13, 2004 Legal Times.
What drives America's highest-flying legal eagles to soar tirelessly and for free on behalf of suspected terrorists? While some attorneys seem driven by a leftish quest for "social justice," others seem intoxicated by a volatile blend of sentimentalism and na´vetÚ.
Associate Sarah Havens of Allen & Overy's New York office flew to Guantanamo bearing gifts for her clients. (Am Law ranks the British firm No. 6 with $1.22 billion in approximate 2005 revenues, and Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and JPMorgan Chase among those its 1,800 lawyers serve from 26 offices worldwide.) "Snickers were a big hit," she said in last February 18's New York Lawyer. Her colleague, Sarah Fels, sounded downright weepy as she headed home: "The hard part was to leave and know they were going back into captivity."
Covington & Burling's Marc Falkoff helps defend 13 Yemeni bystanders, as he reportedly called them in last April 7's Miami Herald, who were arrested in the wrong place in Pakistan and handed to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Falkoff considers these men harmless.
"I would invite any one of them to sleep over at my apartment," Falkoff said. "None of these guys are terrorists. None of these guys is a danger to the United States." He said he has spent about 92 hours representing these detainees. This work, for him alone, is worth $27,600 based on American Lawyer's estimated $300-per-hour average pro bono rate.
If Guantanamo's detainees are all innocent, hapless goat farmers who wandered into the wrong Afghan place at the wrong Pakistani time, the entire Guantanamo Bay Bar Association deserves a standing ovation. But military and intelligence experts are not applauding. They vigorously assert that Gitmo overflows with hardened Islamic fanatics who thirst for American blood.
"Many of these enemy combatants are highly trained, dangerous members of al-Qaida, its related terrorist networks, and the former Taliban regime," asserts a Pentagon paper that was declassified last March 4. "Our intelligence and law enforcement communities develop leads, comprehensive assessments, and intelligence products based on information detainees provide. The information includes...plans for attacking the United States and other countries."
"Some detainees served as trainers in al-Qaida training camps," the document continues, "significant among these are the detainees that served as explosives trainers."
The document quotes and paraphrases several detainees. It's fair to say they lack their attorneys' generosity of spirit misguided or reckless though that may be:
A detainee with ties to UBL, the Taliban, and Chechen mujahideen leadership figures told another detainee, "Their day is coming. One day I will enjoy sucking their blood, although their blood is bitter, undrinkable..."
Some 12 released detainees have resumed terrorist attacks, murdered an Afghan judge, and shot at U.S. and coalition forces.
No one reaches Gitmo without permeating the Pentagon's multi-layered screening system for distinguishing likely terror suspects from disoriented Islamic pilgrims. While imperfect, it also is no drift net. It is safe to say that nearly every Guantanamo detainee is there for behaving badly. Much of the information on specific detainees remains classified. The Associated Press, however, has posted Combatant Status Reviews on 55 current Gitmoites, among some 500 total. These CSRs reveal some of what interrogators have gleaned from selected detainees.
After a November 15, 2004 hearing, for instance, a CSR Panel decided unanimously that Rami Bin Said Al Taibi "is properly classified as an enemy combatant because he was part of or supporting al Qaida and associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
The document notes that this Saudi detainee denied the allegations against him, "asserting instead that he had traveled to Afghanistan as a tourist for the purpose of observing the Taliban's practice of Islam."
The tribunal's charges do not exactly read like the back of a postcard:
Unclassified Summary of Evidence (Exhibit R-1) indicates, among other things, that: the detainee is associated with Al Qaida; the detainee traveled to Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia in approximately August of 2001; the detainee received training at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan; the detainee's name was included in a computer file recovered from an Al Qaida safehouse in Islamabad that listed prisoners currently incarcerated in Pakistan; the detainee's name was found in a document recovered from an Al Qaida safehouse in Karachi; the detainee's name was listed as Al Qaida mujahidin who had not yet completed training in a document recovered from an Al Qaida safehouse in Rawalpindi, Pakistan; and one of the detainee's known aliases was on a list of captured Al Qaida members that was discovered on a computer hard drive associated with a senior Al Qaida member.
"The detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not criminal defendants. They are enemy combatants in the midst of a war against the United States using the courts of the United States as a weapon against the people of the United States whom they are trying to kill," says Andrew McCarthy, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and NRO contributor. "Interesting that the establishment bar, when it decides to provide pro bono help, picks al Qaeda."
In 1995, McCarthy led the federal prosecution of "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 other perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the plot to blast New York City landmarks. He adds: "Any of our assets that must be diverted from the war to shoulder the resource-intensive burdens of litigation impedes the war effort and imperils Americans."
The attorneys who assist these detainees have wedged themselves between terrorist suspects and U.S. personnel who try to garner valuable intelligence to uncover and thwart future hijackings, subway attacks, and dirty bombs. Muslim extremists at Gitmo, who otherwise might spill the beans about their buddies, instead see high-end attorneys jet in to tell them: Sit tight. We're working night and day to get you out of here.
"Why our best law firms would dedicate their pro-bono resources to suspected terrorists rather than, say, people rendered homeless by Katrina, is beyond me," marvels one former high-level federal attorney who previously was involved with these issues. "By definition, these representations only serve to expand the rights of alien enemy combatants during wartime."
Lawyers from these other top-drawer firms that represent America's largest corporations also are members of the Guantanamo Bay Bar Association:
Covington & Burling (520 lawyers; Am Law Global 100 rank: No. 76; $337.5 million in estimated 2005 earnings.). Clients: Coca-Cola, Deere & Co., Emory University, Goodyear, IBM, Merck, Microsoft, the NFL, UBS, and 13 Yemeni enemy combatants at Guantanamo.
Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis (640 lawyers; Am Law No. 78; 2005 gross: about $330 million). Clients: 3M, Cargill, ConocoPhillips, General Mills, Northwest Airlines, and six Bahrainians at Guantanamo.
Holland & Hart, Denver (300 attorneys in 12 offices). Clients: Safeway, Sears, the Williams Company, and five Algerian terror suspects, including Dr. Abu Muhammed, Abbar Sufian al Hawary, and Motai Saib.
Hunton & Williams, Richmond, Virginia ("850 attorneys. 16 offices. Since 1901.") Clients: Bank of America, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Eli Lilly, General Dynamics, General Electric, and six Yemeni suspected terrorists, including Issam Hamid Ali Bin Ali Al Jayfi.
Paul, Weiss (Am Law No. 38; approximately $504 million in 2005 revenues). Clients: Chubb, DirecTV Group, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Philip Morris, Time Warner, Viacom, and 11 Saudi Guantanamites.
So, join al Qaeda, fall into allied hands, land in Guantanamo, and top-flight U.S. lawyers will fight for your freedom while the Great Satan's captains of industry unwittingly underwrite your legal expenses. Only in America.
Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va. The author thanks Mr. Marco D. DeSena for his research assistance.