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The Bush Justice Department rushed to defend John Yoo when he got hit with civil lawsuits brought by victims of the torture policies that he helped to author. Now the Obama Administration, which is legally obligated to conduct a criminal investigation of Yoo, seems poised to fall into a trap. The assumption is that Yoo is being sued for things he did as a Justice Department employee, so his defense is to be furnished at taxpayer’s expense. But this assumption is wrong, because the misconduct by Yoo that has provoked the lawsuits isn’t run-of-the-mill incompetence. As Professor Jordan Paust explains, Congress passed a resolution in 1781 providing that government servants who cause injuries under the laws of nations must bear those liabilities themselves, and twelve years later a justice of the Supreme Court affirmed the principle. War criminals have no right to call on the Justice Department to defend them. They have every reason to expect to be prosecuted.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”