John Yoo Still Defending His Torture Memo


The Washington Post reports that former Bush Justice Department attorney and "torture memo" author John Yoo is waging a high-profile counterattack against his critics:

Last month, a federal judge in California refused to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses Yoo of violating a detainee's constitutional rights. This month, the Justice Department's inspector general described Yoo's legal analysis of the Bush surveillance program as "insufficient" and sometimes inaccurate. Also expected in coming weeks is a department ethics report that sources have said could renounce Yoo's approval of harsh CIA interrogation practices and recommend that he and Jay S. Bybee, a former colleague, be referred to their state bar associations for discipline.

While former colleagues have avoided attention in the face of such scrutiny, Yoo has been traveling across the country to give speeches and counter critics who dispute his bold view of the president's authority….

They were ideas born early in his legal career, before stints as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Those positions, which even friends call extreme, endeared him to a Bush White House seeking to adopt a centralized approach to power.

Read the rest here.

"Extreme" is putting it gently. As the legal scholar David Cole has noted, "Yoo had a hand in virtually every major legal decision involving the US response to the attacks of September 11, and at every point, so far as we know, his advice was virtually always the same—the president can do whatever the president wants."

Last August, I criticized Yoo's troubling 2008 Charleston Law Review article "Andrew Jackson and Presidential Power," where Yoo praised Old Hickory for his vigorous use of untrammeled executive authority and basically recast the controversial seventh president as a none-too-subtle precursor to George W. Bush. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum criticizes Yoo's disastrous theories of presidential power here and here.