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:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail