John Schwartz of the New York Times has published a piece on the reaction of some conservatives to an ad by Keep America Safe asking for the DOJ to identify government lawyers who previously represented or advocated on behalf of terrorists. The Times, of course, was eager to highlight dissent within conservatives’ ranks over the controversial advertisement.
The conservative critics argue that the lawyers’ work on behalf of detainees is a strictly noble pursuit. They point to John Adams’ representation of British soldiers after the Boston massacre as evidence that the lawyers are simply the heirs of a longstanding and honorable legal process. The comparison is absurd for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Adams did not represent America’s enemies during an actual war, as the lawyers in question have.
But the Times article also ends with this:
David Remes, a lawyer who represents 18 detainees, said in a telephone interview from Guantánamo that the deeper point of the attack on the lawyers was political.
The goal, Mr. Remes suggested, “was to make the Obama administration and the Justice Department even more gun-shy than they are on Guantánamo issues.”
What do the conservative lawyers think of David Remes?
He is no John Adams.
What the Times does not say is that Remes used to work for Attorney General Eric Holder’s old law firm, Covington & Burling. Remes left the firm after an infamous pants-dropping incident in Yemen in 2008.
Keep in mind that Yemen is currently home to one of the strongest al Qaeda affiliates in the world -- and has been a major recruiting hub for al Qaeda for two decades. That’s why so many Yemenis ended up at Guantanamo in the first place (they comprise more than 40 percent of the current population). To this day, Osama bin Laden maintains deep and troubling ties within the country.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog (LB), here is how Remes explained why he dropped his pants (emphasis added):
“At the press conference in Yemen — this is a society where the rule of morality is so strict — I wanted to drive home the degree of humiliation that these searches cause by illustrating a typical body search,” Remes told the LB. “The physical abuse they can stand. The verbal abuse they can stand. But when the military punishes Muslim men by shaving off their beard, or by forcing them to disrobe — for a Muslim man that is a thousand times more cutting than a Westerner can imagine. . .I wish people paid as much attention to the suffering and torment in Guantanamo as they paid to the way I sought to dramatize it.”
In other words, on behalf of his Yemeni clients, Remes wanted to demonstrate how anti-Muslim the American military is at Guantanamo. He said this during a time of war, in one of the growing fronts of that war. This does not advance America's interests or legal process. It harms her image further in the Muslim world. Yet, some lawyers will undoubtedly justify this as a service to Remes’ clients.
Would John Adams have dropped his pants inside Britain during the Revolutionary War in order to smear American forces and gain sympathy for his clients? No, that was not how the revolutionary John Adams behaved.
To drive home the point, Remes gave an interview to the Yemen Post that same month, during which he said (emphasis added):