Alaric A. Piette

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Lieutenant Alaric Piette is an officer in the United States Navy. He is a former Navy SEAL who went on to earn a law degree and become a defense attorney for the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. When he was appointed a defense counsel for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in his Guantanamo Military Commission, Piette's lack of experience triggered comment. Multiple civilian lawyers volunteered to help defend Al Nashiri, but they all resigned in protest after learning that clandestine listening devices had been used to eavesdrop on their privileged conversations with Al Nashiri.[1] Their resignations left Piette as the Al Nashiri's sole counsel.[2]

Since Al Nashiri might face the death penalty if he were convicted, at least one of his lawyers was supposed to be a "learned counsel" - a lawyer with special qualifications for death penalty cases.[2] Piette filed a request for the pre-trial hearings be paused until another learned counsel could be found.[3] The judge dismissed the request, until Emily Olson-Gault, the director of the American Bar Association testified. She assured the judge that a learned counsel was indeed necessary for even pre-trial hearings in a death penalty case.

In 2019, the New York Times published an article alleging that Piette had been passed over for promotion, a potentially career-ending matter, and that his lack of promotion might be retribution because of his decision to represent a person on death row at Guantanamo Bay[4].


  1. Court Says Trial in USS Cole Attack Can Resume at Guantamamo, US News and World Report, 2018-10-12. Retrieved on 2019-08-23. “A defense attorney who did not quit, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, said he expects pretrial hearings to resume.”
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sarah Grant. Summary: D.C. Circuit Vacates Military Judge’s Rulings in Al-Nashiri, lawfare, 2019-04-16. Retrieved on 2019-08-23. “Notably, this left al-Nashiri without a learned counsel with prior experience in capital cases, something that was generally required as al-Nashiri was facing the death penalty. Lt. Alaric Piette, al-Nashiri’s sole military counsel—who did not have prior experience with capital cases—remained as assigned counsel and attended the military commission sessions but avoided active participation where possible.”
  3. Director Emily Olson-Gault Testifies at Guantanamo Hearing, American Bar, 2017-12-01. Retrieved on 2019-08-23. “Their departure left only a junior military lawyer, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, who has no prior death penalty experience or training, as Mr. al-Nashiri’s sole counsel. Lt. Piette filed a motion to halt the tribunal’s proceedings until new qualified capital counsel could be appointed, but the judge denied the motion, finding that qualified counsel was not required for pretrial matters.”
  4. Military Lawyer Denied Promotion While Defending Qaeda Suspect, in the New York Times 8-22/2019, last access 5/24/2022