I’d count this as another win for the good guys:
A federal appeals court ordered dismissal Wednesday of a prisoner’s torture suit against John Yoo, the UC Berkeley law professor who approved waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques as a Justice Department lawyer under President George W. Bush.
Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen now imprisoned for conspiring to aid Islamic extremist groups, accused Yoo of personally approving his detention and brutal treatment while confined in a Navy brig without charges for nearly four years.
While in the brig, Padilla said, he was shackled in stress positions, deprived of sleep, kept alternately in darkness and blinding light for lengthy periods, and threatened with death.
Both the Bush and the Obama administrations argued for dismissal of the suit. But a federal judge ruled in 2009 that the case could proceed, saying government lawyers could be held legally responsible for the “foreseeable consequences of their acts.”
On Wednesday, however, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that even if Yoo was responsible for the violating Padilla’s rights, the rights of a so-called enemy combatant like Padilla were not “clearly established” when Yoo gave his legal advice in 2001-03. Government officials can be held personally liable for violating individual rights only when those rights are clearly established.
Although torture of U.S. citizens was clearly illegal, it wasn’t clear at the time that “the specific interrogation techniques allegedly employed against Padilla, however appalling, necessarily amounted to torture,” said Judge Raymond Fisher in the 3-0 ruling.
He also said the Supreme Court did not rule until 2004 that prisoners held as enemy combatants had the right to be free from arbitrary detention and inhumane treatment.
Yoo’s lawyer, Miguel Estrada, said the ruling vindicates his client.
“The Ninth Circuit’s decision confirms that this litigation has been baseless from the outset,” Estrada said. He said Padilla and his lawyers had been “harassing” government officials with years of litigation, and that Padilla “will need to find a new hobby for his remaining time in prison.”
The case is Padilla v. Yoo, 09-16478, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco). The lower-court case is Padilla v. Yoo, 08-00035, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
The knuckleheads at that bastion of human rights, diversity of opinion, and free speech-Berkeley- aren’t going to be thrilled…
…think the harassments by the morally-confused will stop?