Who Wants to be Ramzi Binalshibh's Attorney?

If you were a lawyer, would you want to represent Ramzi Binalshibh, the high-level 9/11 plotter who both helped the hijackers and tried to be one himself? I didn't think so. The Washington Post has a great story this morning about Binalshibh's so-far-unsuccessful request to have an attorney and to try to challenge his detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His effort won't just test our new federal law that suspends habeas corpus protections for the detainees, it will test the boundaries of the legal profession's commitment to representing the worst of the worst.

Here in part is what the Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Julie Tate reported this morning: "Tina Foster, a civil liberties lawyer who previously helped coordinate the work of dozens of law firms representing hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, said it would be a 'challenge' to find a pro bono lawyer for Binalshibh because he has been virtually convicted in media reports as a Sept. 11 plotter. Remes said there is an 'understandable reluctance' among large commercial law firms to champion Binalshibh's cause. 'You wouldn't be rushing to file a habeas claim for Ramzi Binalshibh,' Foster said. 'Most of the folks down there are "no-value" detainees -- they shouldn't even be there -- and those are the ones you'd want to push in the court.'"

In the end, I suspect that Binalshibh's family will find an attorney willing to represent him. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had attorneys falling all over themselves to represent him. So did Charles Manson. Zacarias Moussaoui, who went to trial earlier this year in federal court in Virginia for terror conspiracy, had some of the finest defense attorneys you could ever want. And, anyway, in the end, Binalshibh's attorney probably won't determine the outcome of his case-- it will be determined by the Supreme Court. But it will be interesting to follow Binalshibh's legal quest. Not because of what it says about him. But because of what it says about us and our legal system.

By Andrew Cohen |  October 26, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
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