FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

First They Come for the Lawyers, Then the Ministers

by ELAINE CASSEL

I always thought that the idea of a military man facing a court martial and having a military defense attorney was some kind of sick joke. The joke got sicker a few months ago when,with much pride, the government announced it was going to provide the men held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for almost two years with the best justice the military could muster.

More than 600 men and teenagers were rounded up in Afghanistan and have been housed in cages in Cuba. They have been denied access to attorneys and have had few contacts with their families. Earlier this year Paul Wolfowitz was appointed Chief Judge and Lord High Executioner of the military “tribunals” that would try some of these hapless souls. We have heard nothing else about those trials, perhaps because the Pentagon has egg on its face with the mess it has made of Iraq. Not the cakewalk they planned–or did not plan.

We were told that the defenders in the Guantanamo military tribunals would be military lawyers who would work under an officer who himself bemoaned the fact that he did not get the prosecutor’s job. If they could afford it, Gitmo prisoners could hire American defense attorneys. But those attorneys would have to swear fealty to the Pentagon and understand that all contact with their clients would be monitored. And they would have a life-time gag order on ever talking about anything that they saw, did, or thought while involved in the tribunals. What competent, ethical lawyer would do that? Especially with the specter of being charged themselves, as was the fate of attorney Lynne Stewart.

Now, we are told that the chaplain that has been provided for the Muslim prisoners, Army Capt. Yousef Yee, has been spied on by the military for months. Yee has not yet been charged, but he has been moved to a military brig in South Carolina, a distinction he shares with “enemy combatants” Yasir Hamdi and Jose Padilla. Yee is alleged to have had in his possession “classified” documents about the detainees and Camp X-ray. Supposedly, his job was to teach fellow troops about Islam and counsel detainees. Sources say he may have counseled them not to “cooperate” with their interrogators.

But what does “counsel” mean? Attorney Lynne Stewart was charged with conspiring to commit acts of terror arising out of the relationship with her client, Abdel Rahmen. Rahmen was convicted of charges arising out of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Judge John Koeltl, federal judge in New York City, dismissed the terrorism charges against Stewart (two other charges remain), saying that she was doing what lawyers do–lawyers act as counselors, defenders, confidents, and, sometimes, friends.

A minister does similarly–though not in the context of the courts. A minister’s role is far more personal. But, like the confidential communications between lawyer and client that are protected by legal privilege against disclosure (that is, before Ashcroft got ahold of it and ripped it to shreds), confidential communications between an individual and a priest, minister, or cleric are likewise the subject of ancient legal protection. Though sometimes referred to as the “priest-penitent” privilege, it generally applies to all communications made in confidence to someone acting in a ministerial role in a church or other religious context. But this protection does not apply in the military, apparently. Or certainly not in Guantanamo. Or, at least, when the prisoners–and cleric–are Muslim.

Keep your eye on this case. It could be yet another front in the war on civil liberties. Today, a chaplain in Guantanamo. Tomorrow, your minister, cleric, priest, or rabbi.

ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. This article originally appeared on FindLaw’s Writ. She can be reached at: ecassel1@cox.net

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail