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A series of pertinent – and impertinent – observations about military justice

Cyber law

A recent Washington Post OUTLOOK Magazine  spoke of the need for up-and-coming attorneys to understand technology – the specialized knowledge of computers, massive surveillance, and cyber hacking.  The article cited the chairman of the physics department at Temple University, Xiaoxing Xi, who was charged with espionage.  The Justice Department later dropped the case, admitting it had not understood his work. There will be plenty of job prospects, says the author, Garrett Graff, for new lawyers with cyber law know-how.

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A matter of balance

Hanson O’Haver, writing in the Washington Post, suggests that there may be too much  stress on “if you see something, say something.”  He argues that the fear level of terrorism seems high, given the statistics. According to the author, just 94 Americans have been killed by jihadist attacks in the past 15 years . In comparison, more than 500, 000 have been killed in car accidents.

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Peace, it’s wonderful. 

The recent elections have made a lot of people nervous.  One TV  network actually featured an expert on meditation to help people relax. This reminded us of incident years ago in the old Panama Canal zone during treaty discussions.   We knew a military lawyer there who practiced Transcendental Meditation.  Apparently,  TM gives individuals a “private word” for their  individual meditation.   For this lawyer – involved in the treaty negotiations —  his TM word was no help.    It was “Omar.”  The problem – “Omar” was the name of the Panamanian strongman, whose followers sat across from those cobbling together the new treaty..


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The Champion, magazine of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, has an interesting recent cover story titled “Defending The Rule Of Law: The Military Commission’s Defense Organization.”   The article, written by  Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker honored the numerous defense counsel working at Guantánamo through the years.    General Baker argues that the commission often failed to meet high standards of American justice due to repeated delays, deliberate government interference with the defense function, and a shortage of defense resources.

The magazine printed the names of counsel who had served at Guantánamo from 2004 to date.  Among the number – Charles Swift.   As we recall it, Cmdr. Swift won a great success for his Guantánamo client before the United States Supreme Court.   Few if any of the other attorneys had been successful at that level ,  Swift – a Navy judge advocate –  was waiting the promotion list.  He was not advanced.  What an irony – a man superbly successful for his client the highest court of the land, not promoted as a Navy JAG.

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For courtroom advocates, a little joke can sometimes be appropriate in the court-martial forum.   Here’s a story told by a Catholic brother:

A visitor from overseas was touring the United States.  Among the  places he visited — several cemeteries.  “It’s nice that you separate people this way,” he commented.  His  hosts wondered what he meant.   He explained, “your tombstones all say such wonderful thing – where do you bury the sinners?”

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