Swift was on Hardball yesterday talking about the decision that reigns in King George's power grab on our constitution.
MATTHEWS: Today the United States Supreme Court pushed back hard against President Bush and ruled that his policies regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners went against both U.S. and international law. Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, the Judge Advocate General‘s Corps JAG, was appointed by the military to represent the Gitmo detainee in the case of Hamdan versus Rumsfeld. He had a big win today and he joins us now.
Mr. Swift, let me ask you, what was at stake here in this case decided by the court?
LT. CMDR. CHARLES SWIFT, SALIM AHMED HAMDAN‘S LAWYER: At stake was the rule of law. The president had staked out a position that was contrary both to international law and to our domestic statutes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. What the court did was say that even the president has to follow the law. And that if we‘re going to try people, we‘re going to do it under the law, not under an ad hoc system.
MATTHEWS: Does this mean now that our prisoners at Gitmo are going to have lawyers and rules of evidence that they can use to defend themselves?
SWIFT: Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, and one would hope so, because what the court was addressing is a trial wherein you could actually be executed. One would hope in an American system that you have lawyers, that you have rules of evidence.
In a trial as politically charged as these, that‘s what the rules of evidence were developed for. What it says is that these individuals be able to be present during their trials and confront the evidence against them.
MATTHEWS: What about the charge made recently, just a couple minutes ago by Kate O‘Beirne of the “National Review,” that people who fight us who are not in uniform, who do not represent countries who are party to the Geneva Convention shouldn‘t be free riders? They shouldn‘t get Geneva Convention treatment. They should be treated like thugs.
SWIFT: Well, you know, if you‘re looking at it from that way, we have a lot of criminals here in this country. And to prejudge anyone that we capture outside the country as a thug, why are we having a trial in the first place? We‘ve already decided they were guilty.
What the Supreme Court said is you have the trial first, you use the procedures that are set up under international law, and then you decide whether they‘re a thug. You don‘t make the thug determination going in.
MATTHEWS: But what happens now if we‘ve got a real—let‘s assume—not your client who is a driver for bin Laden. Let‘s talk about we‘ve got a Luca Bratsi down there somewhere in Guantanamo, a real bad guy who systematically and cruelly killed a bunch of Americans.
If that guy says now, I want all the rules of evidence applied, I want to know about all this classified information the government has at hand, I want it in discovery, I want to act like I have F. Lee Bailey down here with me, what happens to that prosecution? This guy is never going to go to face any punishment at all, is he?
SWIFT: Well, you know, you could have said all those things about
Moussaoui. Moussaoui was part of a plot, that if not on 9/11, somewhere
thereafter would killed maybe thousands. He wanted access to classified
information. I think everybody agrees he‘s a real bad guy, and he‘s in a -
in the supermax penitentiary. We convicted him.
The perverse idea here is that if you can make it to the United States, if you can get that far into an attack, then you get all the rights. It seems, you know, the most dangerous people would get all the rights and the least dangerous people who are basically like my client, hiding from bombs in Afghanistan, get no rights. That doesn‘t make any sense at all. And that‘s what the court said.
MATTHEWS: I only have a minute here, sir, and I appreciate your position, and I‘m being tough with you because there is another side to this argument. Let me ask you, do you believe that people who fight us as terrorists deserve Geneva Convention treatment?
SWIFT: It‘s not whether they deserve it or not. It‘s how we conduct ourselves. It has to do where if we say that our opponent can cause us not to follow the rules anymore, then we‘ve lost who we are. We‘re the good guys. We‘re the guys who follow the rule and the people we fight are the bad guys and we show that every day when we follow the rules, regardless of what they do. It‘s what sets us apart. It‘s what makes us great and in my mind, it‘s what makes us undefeatable, ultimately.
MATTHEWS: Well, Commander Swift, I‘m sure you‘re going to have a place in history and you deserve it. What a great job you did, I‘ve been tough on you, but somebody has to defend the law and you‘ve done it. Thank you very much Lieutenant Charles Swift of the U.S. Navy.