Information Warfare: Free Speech Restricted

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January16, 2007: Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, touched off a new fight with human rights lawyers by suggesting that corporate clients might want to re-evaluate who they do business with. As one can expect, this sort of comment did not sit well with the human rights groups, who threw a fit. A Department of Defense ( DOD) spokesman later repudiated the comments.

However, the comments do raise a couple of points. First, many of the lawyers who are waging lawfare are doing so pro bono. They have gotten the resources to do so through their work on other cases. Naturally, it is only fair to point out who is doing that work.

Second, while it might have stung human-rights groups and the legal profession, the DOD does have the right to speak out about criticism that has been unfair. Looking at the facts, the term unfair is arguably an understatement when one looks at the way human-rights groups and the media have distorted Guantanamo Bay. The "FBI documentation" of mistreatment was rehashed in media coverage of Stimson's remarks, against with no discussion of the results of DOD investigations or the fact that DOD interrogations (often at the center of mistreatment allegations) have resulted in the acquisition of valuable intelligence.

Lawfare does not just run the risk of setting terrorists loose (although that is bad enough). The lawfare can potentially compromise methods of gathering intelligence and the sources who provide information to the United States. This is because the discovery process in the American judicial system often requires this. For instance, when Omar Abdel Rahman was tried in 1995 on terrorism charges, intelligence information was turned over in accordance with the rules governing discovery. Several years later, it was learned that some of that information had found its way to al Qaeda's leadership, telling them who the United States was tracking.

The firestorm of controversy, of course, revealed one more double-standard for the human rights groups. They are perfectly willing to dish out criticism and call for Guantanamo Bay to be closed. However, when their actions against the DOD get criticized by the DOD, they cry "intimidation" and run to the press for support, and the press coverage forces the DOD to backtrack. It seems that freedom of speech is only applicable when it is against the DOD, and not for the DOD. – Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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