July 2022 Archives

"Twisting the law to fit his nefarious agenda isn't new to Yoo," wrote Marjorie Cohn.

"When New Yorker writer Jane Mayer interviewed him, Yoo told her that Congress 'can't prevent the president from ordering torture'. When asked if any law prohibited the president from 'crushing the testicles of the person's child', Yoo responded, 'No treaty'. Mayer then asked him whether another law forbade it. Yoo said, 'I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that'. But the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the U.S. has ratified, outlaws torture without exception."

A Week in America's Notorious Penal Colony
A journalist heads to the US naval base and detention center, seeking out truths we're not meant to see.

By Moustafa Bayoumi, July 11, 2022

Even if it's your first visit to Guantánamo, you will know that since January 11, 2002, the US government has imprisoned some 780 Muslim men and boys here (the youngest prisoner at Guantánamo was 13 years old). You will have read a 2006 study of the first 571 detainees, which found that 86 percent of them were not captured by US troops but were handed over to coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq in a cynical exchange for monetary bounties. You will also know that of the 780 total detainees, more than 730 have been released, the vast majority never having been charged with any crime. At the time of your visit, you will read that 38 men remain at Guantánamo (though the number is now 36, as one man, Sufiyan Barhoumi, was recently repatriated to Algeria and another, Assadullah Haroon Gul, was returned to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan). And you will know that of those 38 (now 36), 19 are being detained even though they have been cleared for release by the US government. Your wonder at this fact will be superseded by the knowledge that an additional five men are being kept in indefinite detention because the US government says they are still too dangerous to be released, but the government has not charged any of them with a crime. And you will know that 10 men are currently facing charges in a military commission system established to try "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents," as the Military Commissions Act of 2009 refers to the men. You've come to observe the pretrial-motion hearings for one of these 10 men.


You may recall the recently repatriated prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani, who arrived at Guantánamo already suffering from schizophrenia, writes Bayoumi.  Al-Qahtani was the subject of what the government called the "first special interrogation plan" [as approved by Torture Memo author John Yoo] at Camp X-Ray. You think of the ways, while at X-Ray, that he endured the unendurable: 48 days of sleep deprivation, interrogations that lasted for 20 straight hours, forced nudity, forced grooming, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, beatings, threats with military dogs, and so much more. You find your mind isn't really capable of conjuring what such a combination of horrors would feel like. 

You will also recall an oft-repeated sentence from Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief of counsel for the United States during the Nuremberg trials in 1945: "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us [and particularly Berkeley Law] tomorrow." And you will note that the Nuremberg trials took 10 months to complete.

"Eastman's appearance at the Jan. 6 rally alongside Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani -- just as an armed mob was heading to the Capitol to unleash a violent attack aimed at stopping Congress from certifying the election results -- was the final straw for many faculty members," writes Teresa Watanabe. "More than 140, and three trustees, signed a letter calling for action against Eastman."

Berkeley Law's dean once called for the criminal prosecution of Eastman's pal John Yoo (who also counseled President Trump); "I think he should be,"  said Chemerinsky. "All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future--except by criminal prosecutions?"

Dean Chemerinsky, in the interests of his own career, now commends the 'Torture Professor': "I have very high regard for John Yoo as a scholar and as a teacher and I know that he's a terrific colleague," he said. "I look forward to being his colleague."

Meanwhile, the former law clerks watch their boss reach the "zenith of his influence to press his agenda."

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Physicians for Human Rights
Broken Laws, Broken Lives

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The President's Executioner

Detention and torture in Guantanamo

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