Holder and Legal Ethics, Re: Bin Laden

Eric Holder testified partly on the killing of Bin Laden today, and what he said was kind of revealing, because it really has nothing to do with legal justification.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if there is legal justification for what we did to Bin Laden (there likely is), and even if there were ABSOLUTELY no legal justification, I wouldn’t be very upset and rather think this situation shows that there sometimes might be no reason to follow the law: even a just law.

For example, it is likely just for a nation to outlaw torture, still I’m not sure that some circumstances would not require a nation to break that law. The argument here would not be, as Bush sometimes seemed to think, “When there are a lot of lives at stake it IS LEGAL to torture.” No, I think something else. I think, “When there are lots of lives at stake, it is ILLEGAL to torture, and this is a just law, but nonetheless in the circumstances that just law does not deserve our allegiance.”

The funny thing though about Holder’s testimony is that he doesn’t make any of these arguments I just listed, not one. He doesn’t say that there was a justification for killing Bin Laden, or that we don’t need one, or anything like that. Just congratulations on a job well done and that’s it. And don’t get me wrong, maybe that’s all that’s needed in the grand scheme of things, but you would think that the head of our legal system would talk about something related to legality when called to Congress.


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