Supreme Court Nominations

Did Jackson call Bush and Rumsfeld war criminals? Sen. Durbin has an explanation

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KetanjiBrownJackson_SCOTUS hearing_Day2 AP photo

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks Tuesday during her hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via the Associated Press.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson seemed puzzled when Republican senators accused her Tuesday of labeling former President George W. Bush and the late Donald Rumsfeld, a former secretary of the Department of Defense, as war criminals.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, offered more information on the accusation, gathered during a lunch break in Jackson’s nomination hearing.

During her service as a public defender, Jackson filed several habeas petitions on behalf of Guantanamo detainees that named Bush and Rumsfeld as defendants in their official capacities, Durbin said. The detainees had argued that they were civilians wrongly classified as enemy combatants by the United States.

In those petitions, Jackson raised more than a dozen claims for relief. One of them, Durbin said, was that the government had sanctioned torture against the individuals, which amounted to a war crime under a federal law that allows courts to hear cases alleging violations of the law of nations or treaties.

“So to be clear,” Durbin said, “there was no time when you called President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld a—quote—war criminal—unquote.”

Jackson thanked Durbin and said his information was correct.

Read our coverage of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearing here.

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