Why are John Ashcroft and John Yoo being sued in civil court?

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John Ashcroft was Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2005. John Yoo was the author of legal opinions for the White House and Mr. Ashcroft in his work for the Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003. Both are being sued in civil courts for damages from their actions as key executive branch officials charged with law enforcement and applying the US Constitution. The ruling courts have so far recognized these lawsuits as valid.

Why are such high government officials being sued?

For gross violation of Constitutional rights and torture.

Although the US Constitution protects citizens and non-citizens (unless the government chooses to follow international law in an applicable case), the two plaintiffs in these cases are AMERICAN CITIZENS.

Let's review the courts' findings. Mr. Yoo is being sued by American Jose Padilla for for authorizing torture when Mr. Yoo knew, or should have known, that such authorization was against US torture laws and against the US Constitution. Mr. Padilla was "detained" under the newly-invented legal distinction "unlawful enemy combatant" and denied all rights under the US Constitution, international law, and US law. Yes, you read that correctly. From my article on torture, here's an explanation:

Ethical treatment of prisoners is a legal requirement under US and International law. In the so-called “War on Terror,” the Bush Administration, with Democratic leadership agreement, invented the unique legal distinction of “unlawful enemy combatant.” An enemy combatant would not be covered by US or international law. From the passage of the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA), it is now legal for the government to declare anyone, including US citizens, as unlawful enemy combatants. We know it’s the government’s intent to apply MCA to American citizens because they have declared American citizens as illegal enemy combatants without legal protection from US law or the US Constitution. For example, the Bush Administration, without complaint by Democratic leadership, argued for MCA application to American citizen Jose Padilla all the way to the Supreme Court. Mr. Padilla was detained and held in solitary confinement without charge for over three years. Unlawful enemy combatants can be detained forever, be denied legal representation and contact with family, have any testimony obtained from “harsh interrogation techniques” used against them if the government brings charges (“harsh interrogation” is the exact term used by the Nazis, be denied the right to examine evidence against them for “national security” reasons but to only receive a summary of the evidence (for example, the government could claim they have video of you killing American children as an Al Qaeda terrorist, deny the court the right to see the video, but present a written summary of what’s on the video that the court would have to accept as valid evidence), and finally the same government that accused you would also appoint a three-person military tribunal to decide your verdict, which includes the death penalty (see here, here, and here). Please do not believe me; look up the MCA for yourself. While a recent Supreme Court decision reestablished Habeas Corpus only to Guantanamo detainees, the rest of MCA has so far been upheld in Federal Courts.

Did Mr. Yoo do anything else besides argue for the legality of MCA? Yes. He argued for the legality of "harsh interrogation techniques." Also from my article:

John Yoo, the principle author of legal memos for the White House that supported torture, also testified to Congress. In apparent support of the strategy that it’s not torture unless you admit it, Yoo refused to answer the direct question whether the President could legally order detainees to be buried alive and have that not be considered torture. Yoo’s legal memo said that interrogation only became torture if it was "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Even then, for national security such pain and injury might be justified. Also, it’s only torture if causing severe pain and injury was the "specific intent" of the interrogator rather than obtaining information for the public good. There also seems to be no restraint on applying these interrogation methods to children. Over 2,500 children have been declared as unlawful enemy combatants and detained without being charged with a crime. Yoo testified that it would be legal to take a detainee’s male child and crush the boy’s testicles in front of the parent to obtain information from the detainee. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh reported that interrogators have raped children, and video-taped the rapes for their viewing pleasure.

While the courts with jurisdiction have agreed that Mr. Yoo is not eligible for immunity from civil damages caused by not upholding the US Constitution and US law, Mr. Yoo is appealing that he is both immune from lawsuit and that his interpretation of executive branch authority is in the spirit and literal understanding of the Constitution and US law. The Padilla family is seeking $1 in damages and admittance that Mr. Yoo's rulings were unconstitutional. Among those in agreement with the Padilla family with exemplary legal and government credentials is Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.

What about Mr. Ashcroft?

The same Federal Appeals court in the Padilla case also agreed that Mr. Ashcroft is subject to civil action for his detainment of Abdullah al-Kidd. Why? From the court's ruling:

According to the allegations of his first amended complaint, Plaintiff-Appellee Abdullah al-Kidd (al-Kidd), a United States citizen and a married man with two children, was arrested at a Dulles International Airport ticket counter. He was handcuffed, taken to the airport’s police substation, and interrogated. Over the next sixteen days, he was confined in high security cells lit twenty-four hours a day in Virginia, Oklahoma, and then Idaho, during which he was strip searched on multiple occasions. Each time he was transferred to a different facility, al-Kidd was handcuffed and shackled about his wrists, legs, and waist. He was eventually released from custody by court order, on the conditions that he live with his wife and in-laws in Nevada, limit his travel to Nevada and three other states, surrender his travel documents, regularly report to a probation officer, and consent to home visits throughout the period of supervision. By the time al-Kidd’s confinement and supervision ended, fifteen months after his arrest, al-Kidd had been fired from his job as an employee of a government contractor because he was denied a security clearance due to his arrest, and had separated from his wife. He has been unable to obtain steady employment since his arrest.
Al-Kidd was not arrested and detained because he had allegedly committed a crime. He alleges that he was arrested and confined because former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft (Ashcroft), subordinates operating under policies promulgated by Ashcroft, and others within the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), unlawfully used the federal material witness statute, 18 U.S.C. ž 3144, to investigate or preemptively detain him. Ashcroft asserts that he is entitled to absolute and qualified immunity against al-Kidd’s claims. We hold that on the facts pled Ashcroft is not protected by either form of immunity, and we affirm in part and reverse in part the decision of the district court.

As I've repeatedly argued in almost every article, the US Constitution is under attack, with the Obama administration maintaining Bush administratin policies under new rhetoric. Mr. Obama was elected ten months ago. Given the above information, he has declined prosecution and maintained policies of rendition, the MCA, Wars of Aggression, and repeated transparent lies to attack Iran.

Following is a 4-minute music video: "John Yoo's greatest hits" Warning: brief adult language.

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Torture: "John Yoo's Greatest Hits from PuppetGov on Vimeo.