Lt. Commander Charles Swift, the lawyer who represented Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan in the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled President Bush’s military commissions unconstitutional and in violation of international law, will be “passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and must soon leave the military.” In a move that he had predicted, Swift confirmed recently that he had been denied a promotion to Navy commander “about two weeks after” the Supreme Court sided against the White House.
Dubbed the “hero of Guantanamo,” Swift reported in June 2005 that when he was first asked to represent Hamdan, he was instructed that he could negotiate only a guilty plea. He called the instructions “a clear attempt to coerce Mr. Hamdan into pleading guilty.” Refusing to back down, Swift “ended up fighting his commander in chief at the U.S. Supreme Court.” He explained:
As an officer, I have the deepest respect for the President. But as an officer, it is also my duty to point out when an order is wrong. What protects our democracy is that we do not just follow orders blindly.
National Law Journal had listed Swift among the nation’s top 100 lawyers. Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, argued Swift was “a no-brainer for promotion,” given his devotion to the Navy, the law, and his client. The New York Times writes, “[T]here is no denying the chilling message it sends to remaining military lawyers.”