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October 16, 2006

Hamdan lawyer pushed out of military

The Navy lawyer who won Hamdan v. Rumsfeld was pushed out of the service two weeks after his remarkable legal victory:

MIAMI - The Navy lawyer who led a successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration’s military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay has been passed over for promotion and will have to leave the military, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, will retire in March or April under the military’s “up or out” promotion system. Swift said last week he was notified he would not be promoted to commander.

He said the notification came about two weeks after the Supreme Court sided with him and against the White House in the case involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden’s driver.

The Navy assigned Swift to represent Hamdan and he won. The National Law Journal voted Swift one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America.

Typical Bush MO: Do your job, get fired.

Note that Donald Rumsfeld, the loser in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and beyond, is still employed.

Draw your own conclusions.

Update: Swift received fifteen commendations in his career and high praise from his superiors:

Swift's supervisor said he served with distinction.

"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for Military Commissions. He added it was "quite a coincidence" that Swift was passed over for a promotion "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."

Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion." Swift joins many other distinguished Navy officers over the years who have seen their careers end prematurely, Fidell said.

"He brought real credit to the Navy," Fidell said. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."

According to this chart, 80% of the lieutenant commanders in the Navy who are eligible for promotion to commander are promoted. Hence the "up or out" rule--if you're in the bottom 20% you presumably don't have what it takes. According to the same page, the Secretary of Defense convenes the promotion panels for higher level officers. That would be Donald Rumsfeld of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld fame.


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Holy shit. These guys are shameless.

Success is the best revenge. Swift will walk into a very nice and lucrative partnership at a major law firm should he want to do so. His firing only increases his value.

Tulkinghorn is exactly right. I've seen similar situations before in the legal profession.

As for the "firing", I suggest not jumping to conclusions. I would like to see the Lt. Commander's service record, if his promotion to commander was warranted and if any open spots at commander were available. Just because one's cycle for promotion comes due does not mean promotion is automatic. My uncle was in the national guard and was not promoted from Lt. Col. to Colonel 3 times. Not because he didn't deserve or earn, but merely because they had no command to give him.

If this truly is a petty "you beat us to fuck you" situation, then it is deplorable and the Lt. Cmdr. should bring a lawsuit. Otherwise, it is just military procedure.

I have a hard time believing that Swift didn't make it under the "up or out" promotion system. I mean, how do you take a case all the way to the Supreme Court and win and not deserve a promotion, when you were ordered to take that case? Swift was rated one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America.

The guy's job is lawyering for the Navy and all the observable evidence indicates that he's a super-star. He did the legal equivalent of taking out an entire machine gun nest single-handed.

Unless Swift did something absolutely terrible and completely unreported, I can't imagine why he wouldn't have gotten the promotion.

Here's my dream scenario: The incoming Democratic administration in 2008 hires Lt. Cmdr. Swift and puts him in the Attorney General's office, where he proceeds to target Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Gonzales and their co-conspirators for their crimes against humanity. I want to see those fuckers in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs in front of a tribunal.

If the Navy is as desperate as the Army is for officers, I'd say this is somewhat suspicious. O-4, however, is the rank that most officers hit their ceiling and get out. It's not easy to trash someone's career on a promotion board seeing as how there's more than a few eyes on his paperwork, but there's every possibility the admirals were told to pass on him.

I dunno, Lindsay. It's anyone's guess, but either way it seems unfortunate. I hope Tulk is right.

Here's an overview of Naval Officer promotion. I was referred to this site by my friend who is an Air Force recruiter and another friend who is a Lt. Commander in the Navy.,14556,Promotions_Navy_Officer,00.html

He did the legal equivalent of taking out an entire machine gun nest single-handed.

So that means that taking out an entire machine gun nest single-handed is the battlefield equivalent of successfully arguing a landmark case before the US Supreme Court? Err, ok.

But seriously, folks, though I certainly don't disagree with the impulse to immediately assume the worst about the Bush administration, Swift has said in interviews that he doesn't believe that his not getting a promotion is a reprisal. He may be an excellent lawyer, but that doesn't happen to be a particularly valued skill in the Navy right now.

Look, Swift was an O3 who was up for a promotion to O4.

According to the chart B-Money linked to, 95%-100% of the O3 officers in their promotion grade successfully advance to O4.

I think it's very suspicious that a guy who won a case before the Supreme Court didn't rank above the fifth percentile in his promotion grade.

Yeah, I find it hard to believe he was in the bottom 5%. They probably expected him to roll over and he didn't play ball, most of the military is politics so it's not surprising.

I may have posted this elsewhere, so forgive me:

I remember, during the Reagan years, when I was first old enough to vote, being at a barbecue and mentioning to a middle-aged Reagan voter that there was too much cronyism in the Reagan administration. The man replied: "yes, but cronyism is the way the world is run." I replied: "but it's bad when the cronies are inept!"

Simple, but that conversation still resounds with me. What happens when the ball-players are all we've got? It doesn't make for adept governance.

Lindsay, he was 0-4 going to 0-5. He's a lieutenant commander, not a lieutenant. Still, the success rate according to that chart is 80%, so you have every reason to wonder why this guy was in the 2 out of every 10 officers to get the axe.

Ron, you're right. I misread the chart.

I still have a hard time believing that he wasn't in the top 80% of his cohort. He completed a very high-profile mission successfully. There's ample evidence that he was not only doing his job, but functioning at an outstanding level.

Also, Donald Rumsfeld convenes the selection panels at that level.

Lindsay is right--this stinks. B-Money, the Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel promotion is the next one up--O-5 to O-6--and is much much much harder to get. (Although it pales in comparison to the O-6 to O-7--flag/star rank--promotion).

I think the answer isn't as complicated as a Rumsfeld involvement.

A confidential promotion board is a great way for the services to weed out "troublemakers". In the eyes of the admirals involved, this guy would clearly be classed as a troublemaker. The best way to get promoted in the military is to not rock the boat.

And, I believe, it only takes one negative vote out of the entire board.

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