Lieutenant Commander William Swift of the United States Navy took an oath to defend and protect the United States Constitution. It was Swift who argued that the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay were stepping on the Constitution. The Supreme Court agreed and in a 5-4 decision held that the tribunals were illegal. And now, the U.S. Navy has decided it no longer needs lawyers such as Swift.
As a lawyer, winning a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, particularly one of this type, is a lifetime accomplishment not enjoyed by most lawyers. Yet, according to the Wichita Eagle, Swift's thank you from the government was a refusal to promote him:
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, said last week he received word that he had been denied a promotion to full-blown Navy 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 out 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.
He wore Navy whites to his client's war-crimes tribunal at Guantanamo, dress blues to challenge the administration on the steps of the Supreme Court and turned up last week at a symposium at Seton Hall Law School in more sober, workaday khakis.
"It was a pleasure to serve," said Swift, who added that he would defend Salim Hamdan all over 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.
As a naval officer, Swift took an oath to protect and defend the United States Constitution, an oath he made good on before the U.S. Supreme Court. One would like to think the Navy is committed to staffing its ranks with naval officers who bring superior skills to the job. In this case, perhaps that was the problem, Swift delivered more capably than the Navy thought was necessary.
Lt. Commander Swift, let me extend a salute from all of us who continue to believe in our Constitution. Your days of fighting on behalf of this commander-in-chief might be over, but I hope life brings you the rewards and thanks deserved by such an honorable and noble warrior.