I've been digging a little deeper into the incendiary comments made in a radio interview this week by Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, who suggested that corporations should consider boycotting law firms representing the detainees at Guantanamo. Some of those law firms are among the nation's largest and most respected firms.
In an earlier post I noted the odd convergence of events. On Thursday, Stimson called out defense attorneys during an interview on Federal News radio. On Friday, an unnamed senior administration official showed up in a WSJ op-ed piece written by Robert Pollock essentially saying the same thing about a boycott that Stimson had said the day before. And all of this was apparently prompted, if that's the right word, by a FOIA request from conservative talk radio host Monica Crowley for the names of all the lawyers and law firms representing detainees.
In response, I heard from TPM Reader WS, who works for a St. Louis television station and says he was invited by the Department of Defense to fly down to Gitmo last month for a tour of the detainee facilities. In a phone interview, WS told me that Stimson, Pollock and representatives of Federal News radio were all with him on the trip to Gitmo. Also in attendance were a Department of Defense lawyer and a Marine Corps press flack. While Crowley has visited Gitmo recently, according to her website, she was not on this particular trip, according to WS.
The group flew to Gitmo from Washington, D.C., on December 20, aboard a government-owned Gulfstream jet, according to WS. The tour lasted 6-7 hours, he said, and the group returned the same day. No cameras or other recording equipment was allowed. Stimson served essentially as a tour guide for the media representatives, on a trip intended to emphasize that the detainees are well-treated and well-cared for. Stimson told WS that he was trying to schedule at least one similar media tour to Gitmo each month.
WS says they were shown detainees, coming within 20 feet of detainees who were in a fenced exercise area, and that they appeared to be in good condition. Stimson claimed that the detainees received better treatment than if they were treated as prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, and that the new prison facilities at Gitmo were modeled after prisons in Michigan and Indiana, according to WS. Stimson touted the presence of an office of the International Red Cross on-site, WS says.
Stimson also complained that detainees were taking advantage of visits by their lawyers to convey information about their treatment at Gitmo with the intention of making Gitmo look bad, but WS said Stimson made no other mention of detainee lawyers and did not make any mention of a boycott.
Incidentally, WS has no idea why he in particular was invited on the trip, but he couldn't resist the chance to go to Cuba. He has no plans to air an account of his trip.