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Defense Department official riles legal community with comments

A Defense Department official has stirred up a maelstrom in the American legal community by calling on U.S. corporations to boycott law firms whose attorneys represent terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Speaking to a morning radio talk show Thursday, Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, rattled off a list of some of the most prestigious law firms in the nation.

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Each apparently has attorneys providing pro bono, or no-charge, legal representation to captives at the U.S. Navy base, where the Bush administration is holding about 400 men and teens as enemy combatants.

"I think quite honestly when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists that hit their bottom line in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms," Stimson said.

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By late yesterday, major U.S. legal advocacy groups condemned his remarks - and a senior defense official distanced the Pentagon from them.

None of the Guantanamo captives has been convicted of crimes.


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