Fire, Disbar and Prosecute John Yoo and All the Torture Lawyers

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Over the past few weeks we have witnessed a resurgence of argument by Bush administration pundits that torture "works" to keep Americans safe. To attempt to justify use of this universally prohibited practice in the interest of national security is a legal and moral travesty, as unconscionable as the brutality inflicted upon those captured.

Torture is inhumane and immoral...period. Why is one of the central perpetrators of a systematic torture program (still) teaching at Boalt Hall?

Many know the name of John Yoo, but most do not know his full role in the criminal enterprise known as the Bush Regime

Yoo is infamous for his 81-page "torture memo" written while he was a Department of Justice lawyer, on a two-year leave from the UC Berkeley Law faculty. He is one of the many Bush administration attorneys who provided legal justification and cover for the illegal actions of the Bush administration during its eight years in power, including the lies prefacing the immoral and illegitimate war on Iraq. Today, John Yoo continues to promote the ultimate war crime: the invasion of another country posing no imminent threat to the security of the U.S. He is calling on Republican presidential candidates to prepare the case for a military strike to destroy Iran's nuclear program. And now, not content with U.S. global supremacy, Yoo has raised his sights to the heavens, advocating for U.S. militarization of space.

No immunity for war crimes

Last week a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel dismissed a case against John Yoo (Padilla v. Yoo) that alleged the defendant's "torture memos" provided the legal groundwork for the plaintiff's detention and "gross physical and psychological abuse." Shielding former Office of Legal Council Attorney Yoo with selective immunity - while acknowledging that the plaintiff's charges rise to the level of torture - the court's ruling exposes the reality of a corrupt system that protects a political elite who commit radical, far-reaching crimes of the highest order from prosecution or punishment.

The institutional complicity in torture exhibited by federal judges in the Padilla  case is shared by the University of California, as long as UC keeps John Yoo on the Boalt faculty. In effect UC is tolerating Yoo's unprofessional, unethical, and criminal recent past as a hired gun lawyer for a White House that needed legal cover for illegal torture. A lawyer who enabled Bush and Cheney to break the law is being allowed to serve as a teacher and role model to future lawyers and judges.

Crimes are crimes, no matter who does them

UC Berkeley's official defense of John Yoo appears to have been delegated to Law School Dean Christopher Edley (Chancellor Birgeneau fails to register any concern over torture). Dean Edley misapplies the principle of "academic freedom" to protect John Yoo, despite repeated rebuttals from numerous constitutional lawyers and other experts who correctly understand that unethical, criminal and immoral action in the service of government are not protected. Edley's secondary defense, that Yoo is popular with students, is an almost laughable basis for evaluation.

When torture apologists search for justification of the crackpot theories of John Yoo on torture, rendition, and his radical theory of the imperial executive, it is cause for alarm. Yoo's Office of Legal Counsel opinions were treated as legally binding - for a short time. While his opinions have been soundly rejected, and revoked (President Obama went so far as to forbid agents of the government to rely on any interpretation of interrogation law issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009) it is disingenuous for the Ninth Circuit judges in the Padilla v. Yoo suit to argue that law governing the treatment of "enemy combatants" and the definition of torture was unsettled at the time Yoo penned his memos. One has only to look at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, especially the case U.S. v. Altstoetter, to find conviction of Nazi judges, prosecutors, and Ministry of Justice officials whose "legal" work enabled the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust under color of law.

What is it about torture that Boalt Hall doesn't get?

Starting w/ student actions in 2004, when graduates wore red armbands to protest the recently disclosed "torture memos" authored by John Yoo, they have challenged the presence of a war criminal on their faculty. Yet despite numerous letter and petition campaigns to investigate professional misconduct, community vigils in support of torture victims, even a City Council resolution to prosecute the professor for war crimes, school administrators have not only refused to investigate Yoo's performance but have actually promoted his discredited work.

Some Boalt students do "get it" - and have refused to study constitutional law under Yoo. But it doesn't take a law degree to know that waterboarding is torture, that crushing the testicles of a detainee's child to break the prisoner's will is morally reprehensible, that holding prisoners indefinitely without charge defies a 700 year tradition of habeas corpus. Or that the design of the framers of the U.S. Constitution was not to replicate the British government's allocation of powers between Parliament and the King.

Meanwhile, the Boalt faculty has remained shamefully silent, failing to challenge Yoo as a shoddy thinker and bad lawyer. His torture memos, his books, his latest statements share one common theme: The outcome justifies the law. It is the rule of expediency, the rule of might. He does not apply fundamental principles to circumstances, but applies circumstances to change principles. None of Yoo's arguments are focused on the traditional goals of law, protecting liberty, expanding democracy, ensuring the rights of the vulnerable and endangered, restraining the abuse of the powerful. Instead, he argues to expand the power of an already imperious President, to curtail restraints preventing abuse, to increase the role of power politics and to erode the constraints of the judiciary.

Allowing Yoo to teach law is an attack on scholarship and education

This whole structure - the lies, the disregard of facts, the phony reasoning, the inverted principles - is an attack on the basics of academic scholarship. "It is necessary to question the consequences of the use of torture on the principles and practices of scholarship and education. By either openly or passively condoning torture, for example through our silence, we send a devastating message not only to our students, but also to the community at large: that the prohibition against torture is negotiable or even dispensable. Especially in the humanities, where cutting edge thinking explores concepts and experiences such as 'responsibility', 'otherness', 'difference', 'memory', 'trauma', our work and research become entirely irrelevant if, today, we ignore the implications of a re-legitimization of torture." 

Think about this:

What a bizarre situation we face, when UC is paying an advocate/designer of illegal government action (rendition, aggressive war, torture) to teach constitutional law, and ethics, to the next generation of lawyers and judges! As long as John Yoo remains on the Boalt faculty - as long as a key legal architect of the Bush Regime's torture program enjoys the benefits of UC employment - there is a bloodstain on every class, every department, and every diploma here. Demand that UC and Berkeley Law do the right thing.  FIRE, DISBAR AND PROSECUTE JOHN YOO.



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This page contains a single entry published on May 14, 2012 11:07 AM.

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