Charles D. Swift - American Hero

Charles D. Swift was a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) in the U.S. Navy, Judge Advocate General Corps. Throughout his career, his performance was uniformly outstanding and without blemish, and he was frequently commended.


He was assigned to the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions, and is most famous for having served as defense counsel for Salim Ahmed Hamdan. Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden captured during the invasion of Afghanistan, was charged in July 2004 with conspiracy to commit terrorism. As Hamdan's legal counsel, Swift together with the law firm of Perkins Coie and Professor Neal Katyal, appealed Hamdan's writ of habeas corpus petition to the U. S. Supreme Court. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, (2006), the Court ruled that the military commission to try Hamdan was illegal, violated the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions (which the United States is legally bound to obey).


As a direct result of his principled defense of the United Sates Constitution, which he had sworn to support and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic, LCDR Swift was passed over for promotion and forced to retire under the military's "up or out" promotion system. Swift stated he learned of being passed over, two weeks after the Supreme Court decided in Hamdan's favor. Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, Chief Defense Counsel in the Office of Military Commissions, praised Swift's work as "really extraordinary" and said that the timing of the promotion decision was "quite a coincidence."

Swift is not the first highly regarded trial specialist to be forced out of the military for defending the Constitution. The first prosecutor in the Hamdan case was also denied promotion and forced into retirement, as was another key member of the Guantanamo defense team, a lawyer with 16 years in the service.



  • Bachelor of Science (History), U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland

  • Division Officers School, San Diego California

  • Doctor of Jurisprudence, Cum Laude, Seattle School of Law

  • Naval Justice School Basic Lawyer course

  • Master of Law Degree (Litigation), Temple University


  • USS Niagara Falls, Damage Control Assistant, Agana, Guam.

  • USS Rathburne, Navigator, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

  • Surface Warfare Department Head School, Assistant for International Training, Newport Rhode Island.

  • Naval Legal Service Office Northwest, Defense counsel and legal assistance officer, where he was honored as the Junior Officer of the Year for 1997.

  • Staff Judge Advocate and Special Assistant United States Attorney for Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

  • Officer in Charge, Naval Legal Service Detachment, Mayport, FL (the second largest Naval Legal Service Detachment).

  • LCDR Swift has nine years of litigation experience. He has represented more than 150 service members in military justice proceedings, and has served as lead military counsel in more than 20 contested courts-martial cases.

  • 2003 - Forced Retirement, Office of Military Commissions

Military Awards and Qualifications

  • Surface Warfare Officerís Pin

  • Navy Commendation Medal (2 awards)

  • Navy Achievement Medal (6 awards)

  • Navy Expeditionary Medal

  • Humanitarian Service Medal

  • Sea Service Ribbon (4 awards)

Civilian Awards, Commendations and Qualifications

  • Admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state of North Carolina.

  • Runner-up "Lawyer of the Year", National Law Journal (2005)

  • One of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America", National Law Journal (2006)

  • Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice

  • Honorary degree recipient, Mount Holyoke College

  • Medal of Liberty - American Civil Liberties Union

  • Emory University School of Law- Acting Director, International Humanitarian Law Clinic, Visiting Associate Professor

A Link of interest

Credits and Sources: Wikipedia, Association of Graduates of the USMA, Various publicly accessible websites

Guantanamo Military Lawyer Breaks Ranks to Condemn "Unconscionable" Detention
By Leonard Doyle, The Independent UK, Saturday 27 October 2007

An American military lawyer and veteran of dozens of secret Guantanamo tribunals has made a devastating attack on the legal process for determining whether Guantanamo prisoners are "enemy combatants".

The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantanamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as "unconscionable".

His critique will be the centrepiece of a hearing on 5 December before the US Supreme Court when another attempt is made to shut the prison down. So nervous is the Bush administration of the latest attack - and another Supreme Court ruling against it - that it is preparing a whole new system of military courts to deal with those still imprisoned.

The whistleblower's testimony is the most serious attack to date on the military panels, which were meant to give a fig- leaf of legitimacy to the interrogation and detention policies at Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The major has taken part in 49 status review panels.

"It's a kangaroo court system and completely corrupt," said Michael Ratner, the president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is co-ordinating investigations and appeals lawsuits against the government by some 1,000 lawyers. "Stalin had show trials, but at Guantanamo they are not even show trials because it all takes place in secret."

Combatant Status Review Tribunals were held for 558 detainees at the Guantanamo in 2004 and 2005. All but 38 detainees were determined to be "enemy combatants" who could be held indefinitely without charges. Detainees were not represented by a lawyer and had no access to evidence. The only witnesses they could call were other so-called "enemy combatants".

The army major has said that in the rare circumstances in which it was decided that the detainees were no longer enemy combatants, senior commanders ordered another panel to reverse the decision. The major also described "acrimony" during a "heated conference" call from Admiral McGarragh, who reports to the Secretary of the US Navy, when a the panel refused to describe several Uighur detainees as enemy combatants. Senior military commanders wanted to know why some panels considering the same evidence would come to different findings on the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China.

When the whistleblower suggested over the phone that inconsistent results were "good for the system ... and would show that the system was working correctly", Admiral McGarragh, he said, had no response. The latest criticism emerged when lawyers investigating the case of a Sudanese hospital administrator, Adel Hamad, who has been held for five years, came across a "stunning" sworn statement from a member of the military panel. The officer they interviewed was so frightened of retaliation from the military that they would not allow their name to be used in the statement, nor to reveal whether the person was a man or woman.

Two other military lawyers have also gone public. In June, Army Lt-Col Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran in US military intelligence, became the first insider to publicly fault the proceedings. In May last year, Lt-Com Matthew Diaz was sentenced to six months in prison and dismissed from the military after he sent the names of all 551 men at the prison to a human rights group.

William Teesdale, a British-born lawyer investigating Mr Hadad's case, said he was certain of his client's innocence, having tracked down doctors who worked with him at an Afghan hospital. "Mr Hamad is an innocent man, and he is not the only one in Guantanamo."