Wartime memos should cost Yoo job

Former assistant attorney general John Yoo earned his controversial status as the draftsman of counterterrorism policies while incumbent from 2001 to 2003.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he drafted legal memorandums to increase presidential power in wartime. In his memos, Yoo suggests certain actions in the war on terror were exempt from the Constitution and established international laws.

In a 2002 memo, he said ‘customary international law has no binding legal effect on either the president or the military’ and ‘neither the federal War Crimes Act nor the Geneva Conventions would apply to the detention conditions in Guant’aacute;namo Bay, Cuba, or to trial by military commission of al-Qaida or Taliban prisoners.’

A 2001 memo stated the ‘First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully. ‘hellip; The campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically.’

After serving the Bush administration, Yoo made a controversial return to the University of California- Berkeley as a tenured law professor. Even before he got back, there were demonstrations against his presence on the faculty, once the memos became common knowledge.

Upon discovery of sacrificed civil rights, obliterated prisoners rights and legalized torture of suspects, the public outcry was tremendous and has not ebbed.

UC Berkeley law students protested his position at the university and the Berkeley City Council passed a resolution pressing for Yoo’s prosecution for war crimes.

In February, J. Bradford Delong, professor of economics at UC Berkeley, petitioned for Yoo to be released from his position on the faculty at Berkeley.

In 2003, the memos were revoked and Yoo, appeals Judge Jay Bybee, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bush found themselves at the stake for sanctioning war crimes.

‘John Yoo is reasonably accused on engaging in the conduct of writing the memos and whether or not he was aware of facilitating conduct of others during interrogation is irrelevant,’ Jordan Paust, professor of international law at the UH Law Center, said.

In July, Yoo appeared at several meetings of the White House by the National Security Council’s principals committee, where he gave advice on lawful tactics and gaining approval of interrogation methods, such as water boarding and induced hypothermia.

Prior to this, the Justice Department recognized water boarding as torture and the international community condemned this practice as inhumane and cruel.

Both of Yoo’s books, The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11 and War by Other Means: An Insider’s Account of the War on Terror, demonstrated awareness of his conduct when forming a coherent plan for coercion in interrogation. Yoo also advocated that the president should take absolute power in foreign relations decisions.

With apparent disregard, Bush admitted to the program of secret intention and tough interrogation.

Paust coined the term ‘cascading criminality’ for Yoo’s adamant support for the agenda. The Bush administration’s complicity in standing behind torture doctrine reflects ‘bad faith or professional incompetence,’ Paust said.

‘It is President Obama’s duty under the Constitution to initiate prosecution or extradite (former administration officials) in order to salvage our national image as a bastion of human rights and equality. That has caused terrible deflation of U.S. authority abroad,’ he said.

Yoo’s memos were not yet known of at a Dec. 2001 meeting of federal judges in San Diego. The memos were first rumored to exist in 2002 and were released between 2002 and 2004.

Paust said Yoo as is an amiable fellow and it is surprising to know he could write those memos.

Some UH law students said that although Yoo’s disregard for international conventions has tarnished the democratic system, it should not throttle his right to academic freedom.

They said that the institutes of higher education serve as a market place for ideas, and Yoo is a significant model of that ideal.

‘I am reluctant to endorse firing him,’ first-year student Francis Nugent said.

Paust, however, believes there is a ‘significant need to reaffirm that no one is above the law.’

Anousheh Kehar is an architecture, sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].

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