In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, John Yoo responds to the lawsuit filed against him by a Yale legal clinic on behalf of Jose Padilla.
Walk down Broad Street and you pass by a brown mansion, squeezed in between a music store and a Banana Republic. With its statues of proud soldiers in front, the Union League stands as a symbol of the sacrifices necessary to win the Civil War.
After being sued by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, I wonder whether our nation today has the same unity and tenacity to defeat the great security challenge of our day, the rise of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. Even as our brave young soldiers fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our intelligence agents succeed in disrupting follow-ups to the 9/11 attacks, terrorists are using our own legal system as a weapon against us.
They use cases such as Padilla's to harass the men and women in our government, force the revelation of valuable intelligence and press novel theories that have failed at the ballot box and before the president and Congress.
"Lawfare" has become another dimension of warfare. . . .
Think about what it would mean if Padilla were to win. Government officials and military personnel have to devise better ways to protect the country from more deadly surprise attacks. Padilla and his lawyers want them, from the president down to lowest private, to worry about being sued when they make their decisions. Officials will worry about all of the attorneys' fees they will rack up to defend themselves from groundless lawsuits.
My situation is better than most, since I am a lawyer with many lawyer friends (that is not the oxymoron it seems). I can fend for myself; fine attorneys have volunteered to represent me, and the government may defend me. But what about the soldiers, agents and officers who have to respond to the next 9/11 or foreign threat? They will have to worry about personal liability, hiring lawyers.
Would we have wanted President Abraham Lincoln to worry about his personal liability for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves (done on his sole authority as commander-in-chief)?
If so, then we will have a government that will avoid any and all risks, shun making any move that is not an exact repetition of locked-in procedure of 20th-century vintage, and keep plodding along the same path regardless of contemporary circumstances. These are exactly the conditions that make a nation susceptible to a surprise attack, whether a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11.