Progressive Radio host Steve Lendman asks why any sensible UC Berkeley law student would choose classes taught by Torture Professor John Yoo, whose infamous Bush/Cheney administration memos "claimed legal justification for what international law categorically prohibits at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions." 

As deputy assistant attorney general, Yoo sanctioned executive power to:


Last week, the professor defended the ultimate war crime, "the act of aggression with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State." 

WCW_Syria_Eng_StillWrong_C.jpg"In his torture memos, John Yoo, a lawyer for the Bush administration, notoriously asserted the authority of the commander in chief to violate statutory commands -- only to see Presidents Bush and Obama repudiate his extreme assertions. But the present case [President Trump's airstrike on Syria] is even more serious," says NY Times op-ed contributor Bruce Ackerman. The U.S. Congress provides shaky agency for moral righteousness: a bipartisan majority supports reprisal against Syria's President Assad absent evidence or due process.

Did we learn anything from the Iraq war? 

"If the commander in chief may unilaterally begin new wars against new enemies whenever he wants, the resulting carnage can mount into the millions," adds Ackerman.
"The delusion that holds that U.S. presidents have the power to make laws," writes author, activist, journalist, and radio host David Swanson, "whether closing transgender bathrooms, banning Muslim immigrants, or criminalizing torture, has reached its apex with the collective fantasy that Obama banned and Trump unbanned torture...

"In recent decades we've moved from presidents issuing 'executive orders' and calling them laws, to presidents rewriting laws that they are signing with 'signing statements', to presidents secretly creating laws (and signing statements) in hidden memos, to presidents secretly or publicly tossing out their choice of the presidential 'laws' created by their predecessors, all the way to presidents just making laws by announcing them on television or Twitter."

Can the president write his own laws and procedures? "It is a fairly common rhetorical flourish for presidential candidates to say something like 'when elected, I will repeal' a law," notes American legal journalist Lyle Denniston. "But they can't... the process for repealing a law has to begin in Congress."

"In a matter of weeks, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to open a full-fledged investigation into the 'war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment, by United States military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency,' " submits Loyola Law School International Human Rights Clinic director Mary H. Hansel to the Wisconsin Law Review. The author invokes the principle of complementarity (all states have a duty to prosecute or extradite suspected perpetrators of international crimes when the state of the alleged perpetrator fails to exercise jurisdiction) to prescribe legal proceedings against government lawyers who authorized the use of 'enhanced interrogation' techniques amounting to torture. 

"Contrary to popular belief," says Hansel, "there is nothing about functioning in a legal capacity that immunizes lawyers from prosecution for their participation in crimes." Former Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo, attorney general Alberto Gonzales, undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, general counsel for the Department of Defense William Haynes II, Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, and now-judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jay Bybee were all involved in the drafting of torture memos that facilitated war crimes of torture, cruel treatment and rape.   

In an ICC report dated November 14, 2016 chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda found "these alleged crimes were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals." The report stated that the U.S. Army soldiers subjected at least 61 detainees to torture practices, and CIA officers did so to at least 27 detainees, mostly between May, 2003 and December, 2004, but continued after that date.

Time will tell if the ICC pursues charges, adds Hansel. "Meanwhile, members of the Trump Administration, including newly-confirmed attorney general Jeff Sessions, have indicated that they deem torture a viable option in the treatment of detained terrorist suspects.

"Indeed, the provision of legal cover for torture by government attorneys may be a recurrent problem in years to come."
Former acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel Steven G. Bradbury was spotted outside the Office of Presidential Personnel last week, reports Ryan J. Reilly to The Huffington Post, ostensibly peddling his expertise in abusive treatment of political prisoners to the Trump administration.

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Bradbury coauthored (with his pals Jay Bybee and John Yoo) the infamous "torture memos" -- legal opinions to justify CIA brutality at Guantanamo and "black sites" around the globe -- one of which authorized the use of 13 different "enhanced interrogation techniques": dietary manipulation, nudity, attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap or insult slap, abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, water dousing, sleep deprivation of more than 48 hours, and waterboarding.

That last technique (waterboarding) holds particular appeal to Donald Trump, who wants to reinstitute the practice, saying "absolutely" he believes torture works, that "as far as [he's] concerned, we have to fight fire with fire." Torture's also a War Crime, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions ratified by the United States in 1949. 

"The President appears hell bent on creating a world where all nations stoop to the most base behavior, where nothing is off limits, where no one upholds decency, human rights and the rule of law," reads a comment to The Northern Echo. Former Bush officials appear only too happy to collaborate with the legion of white supremacists, woman haters, science deniers, religious fundamentalist zealots, and war mongers inflicting repression and suffering on people in this country, violence on people across the globe, and destruction of the planet itself. 

Voices of Conscience demand that these criminal practices stop now. We have an obligation not only to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity after they occur but to put an end to the shameful policies which allow them to continue.

We say NO! to Torture and NO! to Trump Supporters who advocate its use. We refuse to accept the dictates of an illegitimate government!
On Wednesday, March 29, the American Enterprise Institute will release a new paper John Yoo and I [Todd Gaziano, Pacific Legal Foundation] wrote, "Presidential Authority to Revoke or Reduce National Monument Designations," which explains why presidential decrees are not "permanent" under our constitutional order, especially not pursuant to the Antiquities Act of 1906. That afternoon on Capitol Hill, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is hosting an event in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing Room on the release of our paper.

If you are in the DC area on Wednesday and wish to attend the event on Capitol Hill, please RSVP to Collin Callahan at CBC@pacificlegal.org or call (703) 647-2112.
1485198713984.jpgOf the 41 who remain today -- overseen by some 1,650 troops and civilians -- only 10 have been charged with war crimes. The majority have been detained for more than a decade, and none were captured by the U.S. military. -- Foreign Policy reporter Molly O'Toole 

The $8.4 million renovation of Camp 5 proceeds as planned, presumably to house "bad dudes" of Donald Trump's choosing. Guantánamo supporters argue that the expense is cause to expand use of the American concentration camp. "We've invested a lot of money" in Guantánamo, and it's a "safe place to keep prisoners," says Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "It fits that purpose marvelously well."

Prisoner defense lawyers find a different motivation at work. "Guantánamo is at its core a place to send Muslim men and boys to be abused and forgotten, with only the most minimal judicial oversight and visibility to media," says Shayana Kadidal.

"So of course Trump loves it."

So Who Is John Yoo, Exactly?

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"He's a lawyer and professor most famously known for helping give President George W. Bush the authority to torture suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks," begins Laura Hankin at Romper... 

Yoo is no liberal "snowflake." This is the guy who, when he served in Bush's Justice Department, authored a series of memorandums providing legal arguments that the torture of detainees in the War on Terror was within the law, and not a war crime. According to tapes of a debate found by The Intercept, Yoo even defended the legal right of a president to torture children. As NBC News reported, he's part of the reason that the United States went to war in Afghanistan, and that Bush was able to open the ethically-dubious detention center in Guantanamo Bay. And when it came to President Barack Obama, Yoo supported his problematic use of drone strikes.

"John Yoo unleashed the 'unitary executive' theory that enabled Bush's torture program," adds Heather Digby Parton at Salon: 

This essentially holds that during wartime a president can exercise virtually unlimited authority, which can be checked by Congress only by using the "power of the purse." Since the "war on terror" was a unique construct that could not possibly have a definitive end, that meant the president was to have nearly dictatorial power for the foreseeable future. Among other things, according to Yoo, the president could suspend the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the government to deploy the military for domestic police actions, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unreasonable searches and seizures, by holding that they don't apply to domestic military operations undertaken during a "war on terror."

Donald Trump's "enthusiastic endorsement of torture," as Parton puts it, mirrors that of members of the last Republican administration. "And they didn't just talk about it; they actually did it." While it is doubtful that the new President fully grasps Yoo's theory, he demonstrates the conviction that 'if the President does it, it's legal'.

Parton notes that "unfortunately, while Trump may not know or care about the legal precedents behind his actions, his lawyers surely do, and you can be sure they'll be citing Yoo's work on the unitary executive theory. No one could have predicted that Trump, of all people, would become president, but that's exactly why the cumbersome checks and balances were put in place to begin with."

The protestations that "Torture Professor" (who remains in the employ of the University of California, teaching 'ethics' to Constitutional Law students) makes against the way Trump exercises power do not begin to exonerate Yoo's contributions to operation of the State of Horror we suffer.
Why is the media pandering to the opinions of a war criminal? Does it really matter what John Yoo (UC Berkeley Law professor and author of the 'Torture Memos' justifying brutal interrogation practices at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prison camps; more here) thinks?

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Actually, it does. To give credence to the opinions of torture advocates serves to 'normalize' the insufferable attack on human rights promulgated under pretext of national security by the Bush regime, embraced by Obama, and promised to Jeff Sessions.

How 'bad' is bad? There are no 'lesser evils' of torture; in application or attribution. The idea that American lives are more important than other's must continue to be discredited. Now more than ever.

Past failure to hold torturers accountable demands renewed passion now to halt the fresh assault on immigrants and others denied legal protection from the genocidal policies of the Trump administration, including revival of torture techniques sanctioned by Berkeley Law administrators, and determination to refuse the 10 Point Plan to Put America [as opposed to Humanity and the Planet] First

We say NO! The world can't wait to stop the crimes of the Trump Regime!
The Trump cabal of religious extremists, privatization advocates and racists, as described by Jeremy Scahill, suppresses the science that doesn't fit its agenda, "and that should terrify you," reports Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik. "Nearly every day brings a new report of a federal agency told to shut down communications with the public or even members of Congress; tweets about important topics such as climate change removed from the public record; bans on talking to the press."

"Among the first agencies reported to face an information lockdown were the departments of Agriculture and the Interior," continues Hiltzik. "Scientists and other staffers at USDA's Agricultural Research Service, its main scientific arm, were told Monday to stop releasing 'any public-facing documents', including 'news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content ... until further notice', according to an internal email published by BuzzFeed. Following a public uproar, the ban was rescinded a day later."

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Donald Trump started with climate change denial, and proceeded, rapidly, to fetter directives of the Environmental Protection Agency. "We're living in a new era, where an unverified report about possible, unsubstantiated rumors of alleged, unconfirmed evidence hacked from an undisclosed source competes on an equal footing with real information," notes Dr. Brian Moench, President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Trump's strategy is clearly an attempt to delegitimize any source of information that has the temerity to challenge or tarnish him."

In keeping with its overall fascist direction and agenda, the new regime is attacking the foundation of the public's ability to engage in critical thinking: a scientific, evidence-based approach to reality. 

The Trump regime's actions to shut down communications by dozens of federal agencies has not gone unopposed. A number of so-called rogue twitter accounts have sprung up to communicate information directly to the public. While all of them can't be verified, an interview has been published with the people behind @ActualEPAFacts, who explained why they took this unprecedented, and potentially career-killing, step: 

We all work on climate change research and grant administration. Knowing that our department is not valued by the person who may be leading the agency worries us. Our jobs are at stake. We wanted to be sure that science, real science, continues to have a voice. When the information was deleted from the Badlands NPS site it felt very Orwellian. 

"The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears," wrote George Orwell in 1949. "It was their final, most essential command."
People are mad as hell, and rightfully so, over the President's outrageous action this weekend, his denial of free passage to Muslim air travelers on suspicion of religious affiliation.

"We have a President who says 'I don't follow the law, I don't care, I'm already sitting in the seat'," argues 'Young Turk' Cenk Uygur. "There really isn't any other legal action to be taken against the President who won't follow the law other than impeachment." Impeachment is a possibility that many find unlikely, but...

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Are we really stuck with President Trump? asks Georgetown University Law Center professor Rosa Brooks.   

"Yes, he is as crazy as everyone feared," she confirms. Pre-inauguration fantasies that Trump would modify his views after taking office have been dispelled during the earliest days of his administration. 

Brooks considers four ways to discharge a president in her commentary to the Washington Post. She missed a fifth, a move exemplified Monday night by acting attorney general Sally Yates: the refusal of millions of people across this country to follow his orders.

Resistance to illegitimate governance blossomed today as retired Colonel Ann Wright interrupted the confirmation hearing of Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. "I say no to Jeff Sessions, no to hatred, no to racism, no to the ban on refugees," shouted the co-author of the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience before being roughly yanked out of the room by a guard. Of special note: the former soldier received the State Department's Award for Heroism in 1997, the same year an Alabama judge accused Jeff Sessions' State Attorney General's office of gross prosecutorial misconduct.

We look forward to more disruption to business-as-usual in the coming days.
The Opinion of Deputy Assistant Attorney General (a position previously held by torture advocate John Yoo) Daniel L. Koffsky came in handy to contravene the anti-nepotism statute hindering appointment of the President's son-in-law Jared Kushnerclear as senior White House adviser. But Deporter-in-Chief Donald Trump didn't bother to consult his Office of Legal Counsel for approval to conspire to deny the civil rights of members of the Muslim faith. 

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President Donald Trump has tapped his controversial senior adviser and chief strategist Stephen Bannon for a seat at National Security Council Principals Committee meetings in what some experts are calling an "unprecedented" political appointment to the panel, reports Alexander Mallin at ABC News...

In an executive memorandum signed by Trump on Saturday, the president also downgraded the status of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the security council's Principals Committee. Both will now only attend meetings "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."

"We had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory," said Bannon. "We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda."

Not if we deny the legitimacy of the whole damn bunch of American fascists!
If we bomb a country or help destabilize its society, we will then ban its citizens from being able to seek refuge in the United States," writes journalist Zaid Jilani at The Intercept.

President Trump is expected to sign an Executive Order today to restrict visits and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran. Titled "Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals," the draft text reads "In order to protect Americans, we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles." Which is a lot to ask of people being bombed to oblivion. The U.S. Terror program has little to do with humanitarian aid and everything to do with sustaining American hegemony in the Middle East.

"What all seven countries have in common is that the United States government has violently intervened in them," concludes Jilani.
but a "serious legal and moral failure that leaves us all at risk of further human rights violations," says Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "We are extremely concerned that President-elect Trump will make good on his threat to subject more people to indefinite detention without charge or trial."

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