August 31st, 2007
While America’s psychologists, or at least their professional organization, the American Psychological Association, can’t find it in their heart to openly criticize and refuse to collaborate with the horrors committed in the name of the war on terror, it turns out that another professional group has done so. US News & World Report informs us that many Justice Department lawyers have been refusing to handle detainee appeals cases for the government:
The government’s legal arguments justifying the detention of hundreds of people at the Guantánamo Bay naval base have been repudiated three times by the U.S. Supreme Court. But it’s not just outsiders who take issue with the U.S. Justice Department strategy: Up to one fourth of the department’s own civil appellate staff has recently opted out of handling the government’s cases against detainee appeals, two sources familiar with the matter tell U.S. News.
These conscientious objectors—their exact number is not known—have decided not to take part in the government’s litigation against the detainees because of disagreements with the legal approach, these sources say. They would not elaborate on the specific reasons for the objections, but critics have long objected to the government’s failure to formally charge detainees and have pushed for closing Guantánamo because of allegations of torture and inhumane conditions. Defense lawyers also contend that the government has stymied their cases by withholding documents and curbing client access.
The quiet rebellion has emerged in recent months among the approximately 56 attorneys in the appellate section of the Justice Department’s civil division following a court ruling in February that placed the defense of the approximately 130 remaining Guantánamo cases under the responsibility of the appellate lawyers. More than 300 men captured shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 are still being held at Guantánamo over alleged ties to terrorists, although all but a handful have never been formally charged with crimes.
Its a sad day when attorneys in Alberto Gonzales’ Department of Justice demonstrate greater moral concern than do the country’s psychologists. Perhaps those lawyer jokes will soon be changed. Have you heard the one about the psychologist who only caused temporary harm with sensory isolation…