On the January 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, discussing recent comments Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles "Cully" Stimson made on a radio station -- during which Stimson suggested that once corporate CEOs know which law firms are working on behalf of Guantánamo Bay detainees, they're going to demand that those law firms "choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms" -- CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre reported that unnamed "Pentagon officials ... hope that [Stimson's] record will speak louder than a few ill-chosen words in that radio interview last week." But a Wall Street Journal column (subscription required) printed two days after Stimson's radio appearance contained a very similar statement from an unnamed "senior U.S. official," casting doubt on whether Stimson's remarks were merely "a few ill-chosen words."
During a January 11 broadcast on Federal News Radio, a commercial radio station in Washington, D.C., Stimson said that newspapers' Freedom of Information Act requests would reveal which law firms were representing Guantánamo detainees and that "when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms." However, the Pentagon's assertion that Stimson's argument was only a "few ill-chosen words" ignores a similar reported comment by a government official quoted in print. As blogger Brendan Nyhan noted, in a January 12 column, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Robert L. Pollock wrote that "[a] senior U.S. official I spoke to speculates that this information might cause something of scandal, since so much of the pro bono work being done to tilt the playing field in favor of al Qaeda appears to be subsidized by legal fees from the Fortune 500. 'Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists' who deliberately target the U.S. economy, he opined."
From the January 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
McINTYRE: Stimson, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, is not giving any interviews but, in an effort at damage control, did send a letter to the editor of The Washington Post, noting, as a Navy lawyer, he "zealously represented unpopular clients" and believes "justice requires vigorous representation" for the accused.
He apologized for his comments and insisted they did not reflect his core beliefs.
PAUL F. ROTHSTEIN (Georgetown University Law School professor): The apology doesn't really work for me because the fact that a man of this experience in the law and in government was under the impression that he expressed originally is shocking.
McINTYRE: While Stimson has not lost his job, Pentagon officials fear he may lose his effectiveness because of the controversy. However, they say they hope that his record will speak louder than a few ill-chosen words in that radio interview last week -- Wolf.