Sunday, June 14, 2009

Judge Rules Terrorist Can Sue Over Torture Memos

This could turn out to be messy.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has decided to allow a civil suit filed by Jose Padilla to proceed against John Yoo, a former Bush Administration attorney . This is the first time a government lawyer has ever been held potentially liable for the treatment of detainees held as enemy combatants.

Padilla, you might remember,is an American citizen and a convert to Islam who was charged with planning a "dirty bomb" attack on U.S. soil. He was held in solitary confinement as a material witness for more than three years in the Navy brig in Charleston S.C.

Those charges were eventually dropped because the government refused to reveal classified information, including the identity of informants that led to his arrest. But in 2007 he was convicted and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for criminal conspiracy because of his aid in funneling money to Islamist terrorist groups.

Padilla's civil suit alleges that he was 'tortured' during his imprisonment and that Yoo provided legal cover allowing it.

In terms of the actual decision, I don't see that White can be faulted. Once President Obama released the so-called torture memos and essentially fingered everyone involved, there's no reason a suit of this nature could be disallowed. Padilla obviously has standing, he's a US citizen ( unlike most of the other jihadis detained at Gitmo and elsewhere)with certain Constitutional rights. If he can prove that he was 'tortured' as he alleges, he has a right to his day in court.

As a matter of fact, this might be exactly what the Obama Administration had in mind.Rather than the US Justice department taking a political hit by going after Bush Administration officials, they simply released the memos - or at least selective parts of them- to let the jihadi's lawyers do the work for them. Once the cockroaches at places like the ACLU and the National Lawyer's Guild were able to swarm over the memos, it was only a matter of time, and it's not going to stop with peripheral figures like Yoo.

As a matter of fact,Padilla already has a separate suit awaiting a ruling in federal court in South Carolina against a whole slew of Bush Administration officials, including Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft.

Which is exactly what Dick Cheney warned about when he criticized the Obama Administration for releasing the memos in the first place.

Just in case you think this is a good thing, imagine the effect this is going to have on the personnel like CIA agents who actually interrogate terrorists and attempt to get intelligence from them, as well as lawyers who provide legal guidelines fo rthose interrogations. They now know that the White House is more concerned about legal and Constitutional rights for non-citizen jihadis and political posturing than it is about making a serious attempt to find out what these people might know, and none of them is going to risk being prosecuted or bankrupted in civil court by doing more than going through the motions.

Don't be surprised if this comes back to haunt us on th eday after another 9/11.

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