Monday, February 21, 2005

David Cole on the Lynne Stewart verdict: "Perhaps more than any other, this case illustrates how out of hand things have gotten . . ."

Here's David Cole, from his article in The Nation, on "The Lynne Stewart Trial:"

Perhaps more than any other, this case illustrates how out of hand things have gotten in the "war on terrorism." To inflate its successes in ferreting out terrorism, the Justice Department turned an administrative infraction into a terrorism conviction that, unless reversed, will likely send Stewart to prison for the rest of her life. To make sure the charges would stick, the prosecution tried the case in the most inflammatory and prejudicial way possible, introducing as "background" reams of evidence of terrorism that had nothing to do with Stewart's actions.
. . .
Stewart should not have issued the release. Doing so violated the administrative agreement. But it is not a crime to violate such an agreement. In an ordinary case, the lawyer might receive a warning. In an unusual case, the lawyer might be barred from continuing to visit her client (as indeed Stewart was at the time, until she agreed to a new set of conditions). In an extraordinary case, the lawyer might be brought up on disciplinary charges before the bar.
. . .
Let me be clear: I think Stewart crossed the line from zealous advocacy to wrongful conduct. But she is no terrorist. At most she deserves a disciplinary proceeding before the bar. Sending her to prison will provide another statistic in the Justice Department's desperate effort to show results in the "war on terrorism," but it will not make us any safer. One of the defining evils of terrorism is that it uses human beings' lives to send a political message. Has the Justice Department done any differently here?

[Note, for anyone wondering, the larger issue right now, my opinion, is protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and making sure Lynne Stewart isn't nailed to the wall in yet another overreach by the Bully Boy & co. Myself, I personally, don't feel Stewart needs a disciplinary action before the board. Please read Cole's commentary carefully before you assume that he's advocating that Stewart be punished by the ABA. He says "at most." He does not appear to say "This needs to happen!" So read his commentary carefully because if you rush through it, you may end up with a false impression. And for those wondering why he's not credited as "Professor David Cole," we don't usually do titles in our entries, that's partly because I blog from the U.S. and not from England. No disrespect is intended to Cole, I'm just not big on titles. For the record, Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and his bio is available at the linked article.]
[Note: That's not a slap at England. That is acknowledging our Constitution. Something that a number of, for instance, "Sir"s claiming American citizenship might want to read. ]
[And before anyone wonders is Cole a "Sir David Cole," no, he isn't. I'm just off on a tangent. That needs to stop.]