In passing: Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, defense attorney at GTMO for Omar Khadr

kueblerShocked and saddened to read that U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler died from cancer on July 17, at age 44. (photo credit)

Bill’s representation of Omar Khadr, born in Canada and seized by U.S. forces in an Afghanistan battle, is recounted in an Ottawa Citizen obituary. I feel compelled to add my own recollection.

We met in December 2008, at Guantánamo. The occasion was the first set of military commissions hearings since November 4, 2008, when voters chose then-Sen. Barack Obama to become the next U.S. President. Because Obama had pledged to shut down GTMO, many of the lawyers, media, and observers aboard the chartered jet that took us to the U.S. military base at the southwestern tip of Cuba were calling this “The GTMO Farewell Tour.”

The week began with a failed attempt by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his codefendants to plead guilty to capital charges of masterminding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It ended with a hearing in Khadr – a hearing in which Kuebler proved himself a master of his craft. As I wrote at page 13 of my report for the National Institute of Military Justice:

‘Of particular interest was the effort of Navy Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler (pronounced “keebler”), lead military counsel for Omar Khadr, to gain admission during this pretrial hearing of photos made during the firefight at which Khadr was captured. Kuebler argued that the photos would help the defense to make its case for compelling certain witnesses, whose testimony, it was said, would exonerate Khadr by indicating that he was buried beneath rubble at the time someone threw the grenade that killed a U.S. servicemember. The judge refused, and Kuebler went forward without the photos. But the dispute whetted the appetite of the media to see the photos, and some published a next-day story suggesting Khadr’s innocence.’

This understanding of the importance of public scrutiny, combined with an ability to inform the public even as a request was denied, illustrated Kuebler’s diligent representation of his client, Khadr – who, today, is out of prison and living in Alberta, Canada, released on bail while appeals are pending. “Khadr owes more to Bill than to any other advocate,” the Citizen obituary aptly states. And so we pause in his memory.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

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4 thoughts on “In passing: Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, defense attorney at GTMO for Omar Khadr

  1. I share Diane’s sadness at Bill’s passing. Bill was all that is good about selfless service to the nation and to the law. I had hoped that Bill would join us later in his career at the Stockton Center as he was a true sailor-scholar. It was an opportunity for us that shall sadly not come to pass. Our deepest condolences to his family.

    Fair winds and following seas Bill

  2. Army & Navy Academy brothers class of 89 give our thoughts and prayers to the Kuebler family.
    Respectfully,
    Etienne Terlinden

  3. About 2002 I met Bill in London. I was detailed as a Senior Curmudgeonly Reserve JAG Officer to assist Bill in his first General Court-Martial. It didn’t sit well with my fellow Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the office that I was going to help the defense in a criminal trial, but I was well versed in criminal defense having spent most of my Navy career as a defense (trial and appellate) pariah. Bill was young and inexperienced; I did his best to guide him through the trial process. I was with Bill for three weeks preparing for and conducting the trial as his second chair. Bill took me to get the best steak sandwich I’ve ever tasted and Bill invited me to meet he and his lovely wife at dinner in a London Thai restaurant; he was a very gracious host. Years later, when I heard through the grapevine he had been detailed to Guantanamo as a Lead Defense Counsel I knew he had been listening to me in his London Office while I was coaching him on the art of criminal defense. Bill decided to place the needs of this clients ahead of his personal ambitions; the mark of a true criminal defense advocate. The Kid turned out to be a Mensch after all, who’d have figured? Fair well Shipmate.

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