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After a U.S. Defense Department official last week advocated retribution against lawyers who represent terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, condemnation was swift.

Deans of several dozen law schools — including University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan and Wayne State University — prepared a statement urging the Bush administration to repudiate the remarks.

"Our American legal tradition has honored lawyers who, despite their personal beliefs, have zealously represented mass murderers, suspected terrorists and Nazi marchers," they wrote. "We teach our students that lawyers have a professional obligation to ensure that even the most despised and unpopular individuals and groups receive zealous and effective legal representation."

In case you missed the front-page New York Times story about the remarks, here's what happened: Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, told a Washington, D.C., radio station that he was dismayed that lawyers across the country — including several with Michigan ties — were representing Guantanamo detainees, and that corporations represented by the attorneys' firms should consider changing counsel in protest.

The Times reported U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales distanced himself from Stimson, saying he had "no problem with the current system of representation." The White House and the Pentagon declined comment.

But Michigan attorneys who have represented the prisoners had much to tell News Hits.

"What do I think of the Bush administration's effort to intimidate? They continue to test the depths of how low they can sink," says Ann Arbor attorney John Minock, who represented a Guantanamo prisoner. "The administration's behavior is an embarrassment to the country. It's horrible."

Minock and Doug Mullkoff, another Ann Arbor criminal defense attorney, volunteered through the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights to represent prisoners held at Guantanamo. Their unpaid work involved seeking at least court hearings or a peek at the evidence against their clients, both Saudi Arabians turned over to U.S. forces by Afghans in late 2001 or early 2002 and held in Cuba.

Bill Goodman, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a Detroit native (see our cover story "Fighting the Goodman fight," MT, Jan. 10) says Stimson's comments are par for the Bush administration's course.

"When all else fails, when intelligent discourse no longer works, the kind of people who work for this president and in this administration resort to threats and blackmail. It is a natural home for them," he says.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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