THE RULE OF LAW ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Thomas B. Wilner
Of Counsel, Shearman & Sterling
An interview of Thomas B. Wilner conducted February 4, 24 and March 24, 2009 in Washington, D.C., by Ronald J. Grele for the Columbia Center for Oral History, Rule of Law Oral History Project.
Thomas B. Wilner is currently head of International Trade and Government Relationship at the law firm of Shearman & Sterling. Prior to taking up work on Guantánamo cases, he did not work extensively in civil or human rights law – he was inspired by what he saw as an “excess” response to 9/11. In early 2002, he received a call from a group of Kuwaiti families asking him to help them find their children, who they thought might be in U.S. custody. He agreed, and his background in working with the U.S. government proved extraordinarily useful in the U.S. Supreme Court cases of Rasul/Al Odah v. Bush (2004) and Boumediene v. Bush (2008). Highlights of this interview include Wilner’s discussion of the evolution of legal arguments made in the U.S. Supreme Court cases; personal relationships with his clients and their families; and vivid sensory description of the conditions of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.