American Counsel Association President Tom Bolt in a statement released Saturday characterized recent remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles “Cully” Stimson as “reprehensible and irresponsible”. 

Stimson said in a radio interview last week that companies might want to consider boycotting law firms that represent detainees at the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by taking their business to other firms that do not represent suspected terrorists.

The Pentagon on Saturday disavowed Stimson’s remarks. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said Stimson was not speaking for the Bush Administration. Stimson’s comments “do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership,” Maka told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Stimson’s remarks were viewed by legal experts and advocacy groups as an attempt to intimidate law firms that provide legal help to all people, even unpopular defendants.

Bolt, President of the American Counsel Association, the oldest independent association of law firms said in his statement that Stimson’s comments were “an affront to our Constitution and the fundamental precept right to counsel”. “As a member of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, I will join with other members in sponsoring a resolution in our Midyear Meeting in Miami condemning Secretary Stimson’s remarks. To condemn public service in upholding the rule of law is an affront to everything American.” Bolt said.

Karen Mathis, President of the American Bar Association in response to Stimson’s remarks stated, “Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law. To impugn those who are doing this critical work – and doing it on a volunteer basis – is deeply offensive to members of the legal profession, and we hope to all Americans.”

United States Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said he had no problem with the current system of detainee representation. "Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases," he said.

Stimson on Thursday told Federal News Radio, a local commercial station that covers the government, that he found it “shocking” that lawyers at many of the nation’s top law firms represent detainees.

Stimson listed the names of more than a dozen major law firms he suggested should be boycotted.

“And I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEO’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms,” Stimson said.

Asked who might be paying the law firms to represent Guantanamo detainees, Stimson hinted at wrongdoing for which some explaining should be done.

“It’s not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart — that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are,” he said. “Others are receiving monies from who knows where and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

Stimson also described Guantanamo as “certainly, probably the most transparent and open location in the world” because of visits from more than 2,000 journalists since it opened five years ago. However, journalists are not allowed to talk to detainees on those visits, their photos are censored and their access to the base has at times been shut off entirely.

He discounted international outrage over the detention center as “small little protests around the world” that were “drummed up by Amnesty International” and inflated in importance by liberal news media outlets.

FBI agents have documented more than two dozen incidents of possible mistreatment at the Guantanamo. In one, a detainee’s head was wrapped in duct tape because he chanted the Quran; in a second, a detainee pulled out his hair after hours in a sweltering room.

In a December court ruling, a federal judge in Washington decried the plight of “some of the unfortunate petitioners who have been detained for many years in the terrible conditions at Guantanamo Bay.”

The judge criticized a system in which dozens have been held without charges and cut off from the world for lack of English or knowledge about the law, leaving them no choice but to turn to a fellow prisoner with outside connections for legal help.

Since the detention center opened, the U.S. military has transferred or released about 380 detainees. Some 395 remain incarcerated in the prison.