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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
Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:
Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.
A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”