Saturday, June 20, 2009

Judging John Yoo

Ady Barkan has a particularly clear and cogent commentary on Slate, posted Friday, about the possible consequences of Judge Jeffrey White's ruling that Joseph Padilla's lawsuit against John Yoo could go forward. It's worth a read, especially since White was appointed by none other than George W. Bush, and yet his ruling is as much an embarrassment to the Obama administration--which is trying hard to bury the past sins of its predecessor--as to Bush and his cronies. As Barkan puts it:

White's decision is the first of its kind: Until now, although other lawsuits have been brought, no government official has faced personal liability for his role in the torture or deaths of detainees. But it probably won't be the last. These cases are just beginning to address the fraught questions of justice that have emerged in the aftermath of the Bush era—what atrocities were committed in the name of national security, who bears responsibility, and how should they be punished? Although neither the Obama administration nor most members of Congress want to deal with these questions directly, they're even more opposed to letting judges (and juries) take a crack at them. Padilla v. Yoo is an example of a surprising development: a conservative judge putting pressure on the Democrats in Washington to create some system of accountability for the Bush administration. It could help spawn more such rulings.

Barkan includes a particularly interesting quote from White's ruling:

Summarizing recent reports about Obama's disinterest in criminal prosecution and the lack of progress in Congress on a truth and reconciliation commission, the judge wrote that "[a]lthough the Court does not rely on the state of current events to support its decision, it is aware that other branches of government and professional forums have not acted to provide an alternative remedy for the constitutional violations alleged in this case."

It's not too late for Obama and Congress to change course--unless, of course, they are relying on the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court to do their dirty work of covering up Constitutional violations for the sake of political expediency. They can't be that cynical, can they? Can they?

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