Pratap Chatterjee writes:
Anticipating Sunday’s release of classified US embassy cables, Harold Koh, the top lawyer to the US state department, fired off a letter to Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, on Saturday morning accusing him of having “endangered the lives of countless individuals”. Thus Koh pre-emptively made himself the figurehead for the US government’s reaction to the WikiLeaks release; the White House’s subsequent statement has echoed his attack.
Koh, a former dean of Yale law school, is also the man who authored a legal opinion for the Obama administration this past March stating that the president had the right to authorise “lethal operations” to target and kill alleged terrorists anywhere in the world without judicial review. This is in spite of the fact that other respected law professors and human rights organisations from Amnesty to Human Rights Watch have expressed grave worries that such actions also endanger the lives of countless individuals.
Koh – and another famous White House legal adviser named John Yoo – were both once fierce critics of what they believed were executive abuses by the president of US interests and standards of conduct overseas. Yet, once they themselves ascended to become acolytes of the highest office in the land, they both came to believe that the president alone had the right to determine what was right and what was wrong.