Tuesday, July 15, 2008


As some of you know, I work for a very large law firm that handles mostly corporate matters. They also do a lot of pro bono work, though--including, most notably, representation of several Guantanamo detainees.

These are people in limbo: they were never combatants (and the military has admitted as much), but they can't go back to their home country, and the U.S. won't give them asylum here. They're rotting in Guantanamo because the administration doesn't know what to do with them. More...

Last week, at the monthly litigation meeting, one of the lawyers gave a presentation on one of the cases (in which they had recently won a significant substantive victory in the Court of Appeals). After he gave some background on the case, the moderator asked him in what ways representing someone like this is different from dealing with our more typical clients, such as, e.g., a bank president.

When you go to see the bank president, he responded, you don't have to go through an extensive background check and multiple layers of security.

When you take notes of your meeting with the bank president, you don't have to surrender them to the government, which keeps them in a secured facility where you can see them only by appointment after submitting written request.

When you meet with the bank president, he isn't chained to the floor.

The bank president knows who you are, and why you're there. The detainee has no reason to believe you are who you say you are--no reason to believe anything you or anyone else tells him. For all he knows, you're just another interrogator.

That utter hopelessness of a detainee in limbo--that's the legacy of Bush's 'war' on 'terror'.