Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Alexander “Sandy” Berger. Bizarre political doppelgangers, both lawyers and former high-ranking government officials. Both caught violating basic, fundamental laws that anyone who knew either of them would say they were far, far too smart to break. Both granted extraordinary leniency for their offenses. Both have their defenders and detractors, largely drawn on partisan lines. Both have become symbols of the “corruption” of their parties to their detractors.
There are valid arguments for both sides, elements of truth to both arguments. There is also rank partisanship involved in both cases, people absolutely convinced that the political beliefs and actions of the accused — and their allies — were essential in their misdeeds, and behind their clemency.
But then there are other cases around. One comes to mind — one that, in my mind, meets the incredibly high accusations tossed around so casually in the Berger and Libby controversies.
And that is Lynne Stewart.
Stewart, a now-disbarred attorney, served as defense counsel for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the convicted mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing. She had been a lawyer for numerous radicals throughout her career, and this was just another such case for her.
Until she actually started meeting with her client.
Stewart, a duly-sworn officer of the court, met with her client and a “translator.” During these meetings, the translator and her client discussed matters utterly unrelated to Rahman’s legal case. Rather, the translator served as a messenger between Rahman and his terrorist supporters, carrying reports to the sheikh and accepting his orders.
Meanwhile, Stewart sat there and feigned a second discussion for the benefit of the guards, discussing legal matters and providing a cover for the terrorist communications.
Stewart, to me, committed the very definition of treason: she gave aid and comfort to the enemy during a time of war. She exploited her role as an attorney — again, I repeat, an officer of the court, sworn to uphold the law — to allow her client — a convicted terrorist — to maintain contact with foreign terrorists, in direct violation of US law.
The defense seems to be that she didn’t realize that her “interpreter” and the Sheikh were discussing terrorist matters.
Stewart spent her entire life championing those who fought against the government, and saw little difference between the regular political radicals she stuck up for and the guy who put together the plan that killed six people in 1993 — and intended far, far worse, the sort of thing we saw on 9/11. He was fighting the US government, and that’s all she needed to know — the thought that he might be even worse than the US government never entered her mind; his opposition to the US was more than sufficient to sanctify whatever he wanted.
Stewart was sentenced to 28 months in prison, She’s currently free on appeal.