Navy lawyer who challenged Bush forced to leave service

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.

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.

"It was a pleasure to serve," Swift told the Miami Herald. He added he would have defended Hamdan even if he had known it would cut short his Navy career.

"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," Swift said.

The Pentagon had no comment Sunday.

A graduate of the University of Seattle School of Law, Swift plans to continue defending Hamdan as a civilian.

The 36-year-old Hamdan was captured along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan while fleeing the U.S. invasion that was a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Hamdan has acknowledged that bin Laden paid him $200 a month as his driver on a Kandahar farm, but he says he never joined al-Qaida or engaged in military fighting.

Hamdan turned to civilian courts to challenge the constitutionality of his war-crimes trial, a case that eventually led the Supreme Court to rule that President Bush had outstripped his authority when he created ad hoc military tribunals for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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."


  1. John Huber

    Hey Bush,

    Stories like this confirm your lack of personal integrity. I have no doubt that future “mal-contents”
    will be condemned by your mauling of our constitutional rights.

    I personally think these whistle blowers are the real Patrick Henry’s of this generation.

    And you are just another “Wanna-be” King George.

  2. Daniel E.

    In my opinion, Lt. Commander Swift got a raw deal. Too bad he wasn’t appreciated for his dedication and hard work. This makes the Navy and our commander in chief look bad. Best of luck to Comdr. Swift.

  3. Tom B.

    Of course Comdr. Swift was tossed out of this administration’s military, he is extremely competent.

  4. TallMike2

    I am so proud of Lt Commander Swift. He is a true American of the caliber this country used to enjoy. The government is so full of liars, cheats, thieves, wife bashers, and child molesters, that I no longer feel pride in being an American. Lt Commander Swift has help me feel proud of our country again. Too bad that “the Shrub” and others have screwed him for his great service to our country. I admire Swift’s courage. I wish him and his family well. Thank you, Lt Commander Swift.

  5. Lucy Davis

    I don’t imagine this will make the TV news. With the current administration, it is “kiss butt, or you’ll be punished”. Reminds me of what they did to Dan Rather when he tried to tell the truth about Bush’s cowardice when it came time to fight for his country. The same Bush that calls anyone who dares question his warmongering, “unpatriotic”.

    By the way, when are the commentators going to start talking about how this pre-planned war was started just to take over Iran’s oil. “Democracy” – don’t make me laugh!!!

    Something else – I notice that nothing is being mentioned about the republicans having gone to ABC, asking them cover up the newest scandal – Foley Gate. Hooray for ABC for having the guts to go ahead and reveal what had been kept quiet for so many years.

  6. Eleanor

    This is an outrage and just another example of the dictator’s attitude. However, I am sure that the man knew this would happen to him when he had the guts to take on the liar and his minions and then beat them but guess what Commander – your can walk away with your head held high and your integrity intact while the dictator and his minions will never be able to claim same even though they will try. However, we all know what Bush and his group is all about – lies, false reports, etc. and there aren’t many that have any respect for any of them. You have my utmost respect and I wish you well.

  7. TruePatriotWarrior

    This officer did what officers are supposed to do, he defended the Constitution.

    Now lets hope enough officers have the courage to do what the brave German officers did in WWII when they tried to kill Hitler.

    Bush crossed the Rubicon–it is time to teach this Caesar there is a price to pay for his treason.

  8. rrk1

    This is perfectly consistent behavior on the part of this authoritarian regime. Reward, reward, reward your (incompetent) friends and supporters, and punish, punish, punish any dissenters. This is just a rerun of the Wilson/Plame affair, and it’s meant to send a message to other possible dissidents and whistleblowers: don’t.

  9. Pinhole

    Yes, thank you Lt Commander Swift. You give us hope. I see the phone line of the Grim-one, Cheney; or perhaps Rumsfeld, in action here. “Don’t get mad, get even.”

    He may call Woodward up and swear at him, but has other methods available with active duty military.

    We support Eric Massa, another ex-Navy officer, for Congress, from NYS.

  10. Doubtom

    Since Rumsfeld sits at the very top of the military promotion system (game?) it’s quite clear that the promotion board for Navy Commanders received a timely phone call from Rummy. I’d stake my life on it.

    There’s a saying in the Navy, which I’m sure applies to all military services, and that is “after you get so high in rank it’s all politics”. It’s also very disgusting.

  11. I have a friend who wanted to go into the Navy after law school. I’m glad I talked him out off it. Their is no honor in a corrupt organization serving a corrupt president. I told him he might have to witness torture sessions on an aircraft carrier.

    Never Proud to be a Navy Veteran. (It was always a money pit.)

  12. Linda Sparks

    I just wonder why the newspapers and other media don’t jump on this story and let it be known how someone of personal integrity and real moral standards is being victimized by this administration? This is criminal, just like everything else Bush and his cronies do. If we had more people who had the courage to stand up for what they know is right, perhaps we could have Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Rove out on the streets looking for work instead of forcing a top-notch military lawyer into early retirement. I also wonder about the moral values of the military men who passed this man over for promotion to appease Bush. They are also as lacking in principles as Bush. This needs to be publicized — what a “small” man Bush is — he is the biggest bully on the playground. He should be impeached for crimes against the people.

  13. Jason Shapiro

    Lt. Commander Swift actually believes in “duty, honor, country,” a phrase that is nothing more than a cynical sound bite when used by the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. On the other hand, just what did anyone expect would happen to Swift? He’s lucky they didn’t court marshal him.

  14. Ted Remington

    Perhaps we need to start a REAL Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, with Lt. Cmdr. Swift as the head of it. Give those people a taste of their own medicine.

  15. Mina Cheek Fraser

    Dear Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift: I humbly salute you, sir, as a true patriot and a man of honor and integrity. You HAVE made a difference and in the process restored some of our faith that real Americans still exist. You make us proud.

  16. David Rosenberg

    Where are the posts defending what the Navy did? Is there no way they can say Lt. Cmd. Swift got what he deserved? Of course there aren’t. Even Republicans know this was a “Get Even Job” But, they don’t have a micro amount of guts Lt. Cmd. Swift has.Although he wished to finish his military career, he would’ve been alienaited and friendless not to mention being upgraded to full Cmd. only a dream. Hold your head high and stick out your chest, you’ve nothing to be down about.

  17. Gloria Bryant

    Coincidence of timing? My lower left cheek!!!
    My very best to Lt Commander Swift and I wish we had a lot more like him – gentlemen of honor and guts.

  18. Barbara

    Support our Troops!…as long as the ones remaining are politically correct.
    That’s how Hitler did it!
    I hope, as Mr. Swift, Esq., he is as instrumental in the justice of this country as he was as a member of the military. This should give him a real boost in the civilian sector– and a reputation as an honest lawyer–almost as rare as an honest congressman.
    You GO,with best of luck, Mr. Swift!

  19. Wayne K Dolik

    The best thing we could do is to elect all new Congress People and Impeach Bush and Cheney.

    Next we need to run all the PNAC crazys out of the U.S. Govt.

    Stop torture next and return the U.S. Constitution to the American People, and repeal the Patriot Act.

    Lastly, the new Congress will need to reopen the 911 Comission with impartial investigators. And, if laws have been broken our Courts will need to act as American courts and jail the crooks.

  20. Doubtom

    OK, here’s an entirely different take on Lcdr. Swift’s “passover”.

    It’s entirely possible that he was a mediocre performer and was handed that job of protecting Handam’s rights because it was felt that he would do a miserable job of it thus producing the desired results of conviction. The reason for Lcdr. Swift’s
    theoretical mediocrity could simply be that he was vocal in opposing the the Bush regime’s methods.

    To those who say, wait a minute, how about the stellar evaluations by his superiors? Well folks, hate to rain on your parade or shatter your notions of integrity within the military service, but those stellar evaluations are next to meaningless and are only sugar coating. In a good many instances, an Officer is told to initiate his own evaluation which is then reviewed by the superior who is either too lazy or too incompetent to do the job himself, with the result that many times the initial evaluation is the one that is finalized for the record. Those are the facts folks! Take it from a former Naval Officer of 30 year’s experience.

  21. soccermom

    Tom, certainly the system of fit reps can be ridiculous, but you can’t ignore the words of his superiors spoken to the press (probably also at risk to their own futures): “Swift has worked under two officers as a member of the small team of lawyers defending “enemy combatants” being held at Guantanamo Bay. Both of them spoke highly of Swift Friday and said they gave him very high ratings on his annual review, called a fitness report.

    “He’s doing a fantastic job,” said Swift’s current boss at the Office of Military Commissions (tribunals), Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan.

    Sullivan spoke of the crucial importance of the case decided Thursday by the Supreme Court. “It’s a fundamental constitutional question about the powers of the president,” Sullivan said. Asked about Swift’s aggressive legal challenge of the commander in chief, Sullivan saluted Swift’s “moral courage.”

    “He has been absolutely fearless in pursuing his client’s interests. And also he has exhibited an extraordinary level of legal skill. His legal strategy has been brilliant.

    “We all take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and he has certainly done that, literally.”

    From the King County Bar Assn Bulletin, August 2006, when Swift had already seen it coming because the first board didn’t recommend promotion. He will not want for a job in the outside world, and he accepted the risks, fair or not, when he accepted the assignment, just as a captain is responsible for anything that goes wrong on his ship (in the Navy; not always if you’re driving for commercial companies). It still stinks, and it’s a loss to the Navy.

  22. MJ

    Thanks you Lt. Commander Swift for being courageous and upholding the constitution…something that Bush knows nothing about and refuses to do,calling it ” a Goddamn piece of paper”.
    The Bush regime should all be put in prison for crimes against humanity.
    We need more like Lt. Swift who refuse to be silenced when we live in a time where speaking the truth is considered a terrorist act.
    Good luck to you and your family.