Organizational Culture, Professional Ethics, and Guantanamo

25 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010

See all articles by Gregory S. McNeal

Gregory S. McNeal

Pepperdine University School of Law; Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy; AirMap, Inc.

Date Written: September 11, 2009


In this symposium essay I draw attention to the intersection between the social scientific literature on organizational culture and the legal ethics literature. Drawing from the organizational theory literature I detail a framework for assessing organizational culture and explain how organizational culture reflects more than rules and structure within an organization, but rather represents deeper values, practices, and ways of thinking. While organizational culture is difficult to change, it can be modified or sustained through power, status, rewards, and other mechanisms. After establishing a baseline for assessing organizational culture I highlight efforts by the Bush administration to exercise control over a military culture which was resistant to the administration’s legal policy initiatives. This effort at control manifested itself in the creation of the military commissions in 2001, an attempt to minimize the influence of military attorneys in 2003, and efforts to exercise political control over military commissions in 2006; each effort was successfully resisted by members of the military. I conclude by observing that the literature on organizational culture can provide insights into the literature on legal ethics and political control of the military specifically and political control of bureaucracies more generally.

Keywords: legal ethics, guantanamo, culture, organizational culture, command influence, military attorneys, military law, counterterrorism, Rule 8.3, professional conduct, professional responsibility, judge advocate, military culture, legal culture

Suggested Citation

McNeal, Gregory S., Organizational Culture, Professional Ethics, and Guantanamo (September 11, 2009). Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 42, p. 125, 2009 . Available at SSRN:

Gregory S. McNeal (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

AirMap, Inc. ( email )

409 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
United States


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