The notoriety that follows Mr. Yoo — and to varying degrees half a dozen other Bush administration lawyers — raises difficult questions: What is a government lawyer’s responsibility if legal advice he gives turns out to be, in the view of many authorities, grievously flawed? Can he be blamed for damaging, and arguably illegal, acts carried out with his imprimatur? Should he suffer any punishment?
“I think the legal profession in the United States has been seriously hurt by their conduct,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University. He called the disputed legal opinions “sloppy, one-sided and incompetent” and added, “There has to be accountability.”
What, if anything, should happen to these lawyers — damage to their professional reputations, punishment by state bar associations, perhaps even prosecution at home or abroad — is now the subject of a lively debate in the legal world and beyond.
...Even if they escape punishment at home, however, the lawyers could find themselves pursued in European countries that have laws allowing them to prosecute torture no matter where it occurred.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto