Sunday, October 08, 2006


Last week Dubya used one his patented signing statements to undo a relatively small thing -- an insistence from Congress that competence have at least a small role in the selection of future heads of FEMA. You could interpret this as pure defiance, of course -- stubborn resisance to any and all attempts to reign in absolute discretion.

But you could also see it as an equally stubborn insistence on their hostility to competence in all its forms. That hypothesis is supported by this story:

Gitmo win likely cost Navy lawyer his career
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift -- the Navy lawyer who beat the president of the United States in a pivotal Supreme Court battle over trying alleged terrorists -- figures he'll probably have to find a new job.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift first represented Hamdan two years ago in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Of course, it's always risky to compare your boss to King George III.

Swift made the analogy to the court, saying President Bush had overstepped his authority when he bypassed Congress and set up illegal military tribunals to try Guantanamo detainees such as Swift's alleged al-Qaida client, Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

The justices agreed, ruling 5-3 Thursday in favor of dismantling the current tribunal system.

Despite his spectacular success, with the assistance of attorneys from the Seattle firm Perkins Coie, Swift thinks his military career is coming to an end. The 44-year-old Judge Advocate General officer, who was recently named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the country by The National Law Journal, was passed over for promotion last year as the high-profile case was making headlines around the world.

"I may be one of the most influential lawyers in America," the Seattle University Law School graduate said, "but I won't be in the military much longer. That irony did strike me."

Swift's future in the Navy now rests with another promotion board that is expected to render its decision in the next couple of weeks. Under the military's system, officers need to be promoted at regularly scheduled intervals or their service careers are essentially over.

"The way it works, the die was cast some months ago," he said. "The decision has been made. I don't know what it is yet." But he thinks his chances are slim.

Asked if he believes he was passed over for promotion last year for political reasons, Swift would not speculate.

He said what he is supposed to say. But it ain't speculation in my book.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The military has had, and continues to have, a very hard time recruiting and retaining JAG officers. That one would be passed-over for anything other than gross incompetence boogles the mind.

11:22 AM  

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