Ruth Marcus op-ed in the Post on the president’s celebration of this year’s Law Day.Two words: oh, snap!
Now, having convinced a compliant Congress to strip Guantanamo prisoners of the right to file habeas corpus claims to review the lawfulness of their detention, the government is seeking to whittle down what remaining legal protections they have.It wants to limit lawyers’ access to their clients — to one initial meeting seeking to represent them, and three later ones — on the grounds that the lawyers have been a disruptive presence on the base. Anyway, the government says, they don’t have much left to do in the new, stripped-down legal regime.To paraphrase Shakespeare, first thing we do, let’s blame all the lawyers. As lawyers for a group of detainees caustically argue in their brief, “It is not imprisonment without charge, it is not solitary confinement of men approved for release, it is not five years in cages, it is not ridicule while men pray that causes unrest — it is lawyers.”The government wants to be able to read correspondence between lawyers and their Guantanamo clients, albeit with a team that wouldn’t share the information with prosecuting authorities. Try explaining that to a detainee who already needs convincing that his lawyer isn’t actually a government agent.And it wants to be able to deny detainees’ lawyers access to the secret evidence used to decide whether their clients are enemy combatants. The lawyers — who have security clearances and are barred from sharing this information with clients — would be given only such evidence as the government determines they “need to know.”Imagine an American being held by a foreign country under these conditions.”The strength of our legal system,” the president says in his proclamation, “requires the ongoing commitment of every citizen.”Maybe that could start with the citizen at the top.