David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

I have not been satisfied with Democratic efforts to link our adventure in Iraq to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and to setbacks in our overall counterterrorism strategy. Perhaps this somber assessment will help focus Democrats:

Henry Crumpton, the outgoing State Department terror coordinator . . . [and] ex-CIA operative . . . told NEWSWEEK that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. "Certainly, we haven't made any progress," said Crumpton. "In fact, we've lost ground." He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States.

For Democrats opposed to the Iraq war who still fear a backlash for not being tough enough, advocating for more resources for the wars in Afghanistan and against global terrorism has the dual benefit of showing a stiff spine and pursuing the right policy.

From an advance copy of an anti-war speech to be given by John Edwards today in Harlem: "If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel."

Condi Rice channeling Donald Rumsfeld:

Aboard her plane, Rice also told reporters that the United States would not abandon Iraq even if Bush's latest plan fails.

"We're not pulling the plug on Iraq," she said. "I think we'll worry about making Plan A work for now. And obviously, if it doesn't, then you know, we're not going to say, oh my goodness, that didn't work, there's nothing that can be done."

Oh my goodness.

In the latest development involving those immigration raids at meat packing plants last month, a federal judge in Denver has gotten his hands on the Colorado case and apparently doesn't like what he sees:

A federal judge ordered immigration officials Friday to provide the names and whereabouts of at least 260 immigrant workers arrested during a raid at Greeley's Swift & Co. meatpacking plant.

U.S. District Judge John L. Kane also warned lawyers representing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he is scrutinizing how they handled the detainees.

. . .

In response to allegations that ICE agents denied detainees their due-process rights and coerced them to sign voluntary deportation orders after the Dec. 12 sweep, Kane ordered ICE to hold bond hearings within 48 hours for any jailed Swift workers who had not yet had such a hearing.

Kane also ordered ICE not to deport Swift detainees who had signed papers agreeing to leave the country and giving up legal rights, and to withdraw those orders if the detainees want.

The Pentagon is disavowing the comments made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson, saying they don't represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership.

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.

Nothing like a little coordination between the Pentagon and the right wing noise machine.

The suggestion by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, that corporations should consider boycotting law firms who are doing pro bono work representing detainees at Gitmo, came after he received a FOIA request from conservative radio host and former Nixon groupie Monica Crowley seeking a list of all the lawyers and law firms representing detainees.

Later, during a radio interview (not with Crowley), Stimson--who was a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., specializing in felony domestic violence and child abuse cases before going to the Pentagon to oversee the detainee program--read from the list produced to Crowley and indicated that he expected the names of the lawyers and law firms to be a big story in coming days:

“I think the news story that you’re really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA request through a major news organization, somebody asked, ‘Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there?’ and you know what, it’s shocking.”

For her part, Crowley made a recent trip to Guantanamo and on her radio show is marking the fifth anniversary of the detainee facility there: "We're there, we're fair, and we're not going anywhere!"

As the New York Times noted, the fifth anniversary of the Gitmo prison was also the peg for a Robert Pollock op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal which cited the list and attributed this quote to an unnamed “senior U.S. official": “Corporate C.E.O.’s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

A series of completely unconnected random events, I'm sure.


The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble.

Stimson is himself a lawyer, sad to say. Here's the money quote:

I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.

The Administration has already done virtually everything possible to deny detainees any hope of justice. Encouraging boycotts of the law firms representing detainees is an effort to close off any last chance that the detainees will be treated in accordance with Anglo-American legal standards.

Each of us will mark our own low point of the Bush presidency. This is on my short list.

If you haven't seen it already, check out Murray Waas' preview of the upcoming trial of Scooter Libby, which will likely open a window on the Imperial Vice Presidency.

The top FBI official for San Diego, on the firing of U.S. Attorney Carol Lam: "I guarantee politics is involved."

It's just stunning to have a FBI agent blast the Department of Justice and the White House like this.

Lam prosecuted the Duke Cunningham case and is in charge of other high-profile public corruption cases involving Republicans.