Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the US Navy defense lawyer who argued the Hamdan decision in front of the US Supreme Court, has been passed over for promotion and will leave the service after 20 years. The usual suspects who cannot tell a Canadian uniform from an American one are whining about the injustice. The Seattle Times strongly implies that there was a revenge motive in the decision.
NEWARK, N.J. — The Navy lawyer who took the Guantánamo case of Osama bin Laden's driver to the U.S. Supreme Court — and won — has been passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and must soon leave the military.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, said last week he received word he had been denied a promotion to full-blown commander this summer, "about two weeks after" the Supreme Court sided against the White House and with his client, a Yemeni captive at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
Under the military's "up-or-out" promotion system, Swift will retire in March or April, closing a 20-year career of military service.
A Pentagon appointee, Swift embraced the alleged al-Qaida's sympathizer's defense with a classic defense lawyer's zeal, casting his captive client as an innocent victim in the dungeon of King George, a startling analogy for the attorney whose commander-in-chief is President (George) Bush.
"It was a pleasure to serve," said Swift, who added that he would defend Salim Hamdan again, even if he knew he would have to leave the Navy earlier than he wanted.
"All I ever wanted was to make a difference — and in that sense, I think my career and personal satisfaction has been beyond my dreams," he said.
Swift, a Seattle University Law School graduate, also said he will continue to defend Hamdan as a civilian. The Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie, which provided pro-bono legal work in Hamdan's habeas corpus petition, has agreed to support Swift's defense of Hamdan in civilian life, he said.
In the opinion of Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion," given his devotion to the Navy, the law and his client.
But, he said, Swift is part of a long line of Navy defense lawyers "of tremendous distinction" who were not made full commander and "had their careers terminated prematurely."
"He brought real credit to the Navy," said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."
Swift's supervisor, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for Military Commissions, said the career Navy officer had served with distinction.
"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, calling it "quite a coincidence" that the Navy promotion board passed on promoting Swift "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."
We simply do not have the facts here. Could someone on the promotion board have been negatively influenced by the Hamdan decision? Sure. Anything is possible. However, it would be wise to keep in mind that the "up or out" policy has some strict rules. At Swift's level only 50% of officers make the cut at all. Swift was passed over by the board a year earlier. The failure rate for getting promotion the second time if passed over a year earlier is 98%.
It most likely was not malice, but just the way the system operates. I have known several good, solid career officers who got caught in this exact same system and are civilians now.