Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The last refuge of the hack

Is the "...". Last Thursday's Wall Street Journal contained an op-ed piece by Debra Burlingame, whose brother was one of those murdered in the 9/11 attacks. She was taking the relay baton from the failed Pentagon-WSJ assault on the already flimsy rights of Guantanamo detainees, in arguing that their US lawyers are helping the terrorists (since we already know that they are terrorists) achieve their broader goals. This was part of the evidence --

How we deal with alien enemy combatants goes to the essence of the debate between those who see terrorism as a series of criminal acts that should be litigated in the justice system, one attack at a time, and those who see it as a global war where the "criminal paradigm" is no more effective against militant Islamists whose chief tactic is mass murder than indictments would have been in stopping Hitler's march across Europe. Michael Ratner and the lawyers in the Gitmo bar have expressly stated that the habeas corpus lawsuits are a tactic to prevent the U.S. military from doing its job. He has bragged that "The litigation is brutal [for the United States] . . . You can't run an interrogation . . . with attorneys." No, you can't. Lawyers can literally get us killed.

Ratner is the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. He has a letter in today's paper setting the record straight, except that no one will see it because unlike Burlingame's rant, the Journal leaves letters to the editor behind subscription. So here's the key bit --

I am quoted by Ms. Burlingame as stating: "The litigation is brutal . . . You can't run an interrogation . . . with attorneys." This heavily edited version of my quote is often cited in speeches and articles that attempt to stir up antipathy toward the attorneys who have taken on the cases of the Guantanamo detainees. Their aim is to suggest that we are seeking to keep the government from doing its job. The truth is that we are seeking to keep the government from breaking the law. The repeated selective use of ellipses, particularly the omission of the word "torture," fails to convey the true meaning of my words.

The full quote, which appeared in an article by Onnesha Roychoudhuri in a March 2005 piece for Mother Jones reads: "The litigation is brutal for them. It's huge. We have over one hundred lawyers now from big and small firms working to represent these detainees. Every time an attorney goes down there, it makes it that much harder to do what they're doing. You can't run an interrogation and torture camp with attorneys. What are they going to do now that we're getting court orders to get more lawyers down there? Lawyers are down there to interview their clients, and statements that are coming out on a weekly basis referring to sexual abuse, religious abuse, the use of dogs."

Apparently when you've already decided that giving George W. Bush the right to torture people is OK, butchering quotes is small potatoes.

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