Monday, April 07, 2008

Yoo Who?

John Yoo is the former Justice Department official and author of the infamous "torture memo" which was used by the Bush administration to justify U.S. interrogation techniques used on captured terrorist suspects. You can read the recently declassified 80 page memo yourself (pdf format): part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. Other related official documents can be found on the ACLU torture documents page.

The documents are, of course, filled with legalise, and comprehending them would be a daunting task for the average reader, so we'll have to settle on some professional analysis. The New York Times has A Guide to the Memos on Torture. Frontline has an analysis and video. ABC News highlights some major points in their Legalities Blog. The ACLU has a statement and some further links.

Here is a rundown on the world according to Yoo (via Think Progress):
  • Yoo argued that interrogation techniques only constituted torture if the inflicted pain was akin to that associated with "death, organ failure or the permanent impairment of a significant body function."
  • He advised that President Bush did not have to comply with the Geneva Convention, not even Common Article 3.
  • Claimed that Bush didn't need to ask Congress for permission to invade Iraq. Also argued that the 1973 War Powers Resolution Act was unconstitutional.
  • Justified the warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.
In a revealing Vanity Fair article The Green Light, the real story behind these memos is pieced together. The memos were not "simply some theoretical document, an academic exercise in blue-sky hypothesizing, but rather played a crucial role in giving those at the top the confidence to put pressure on those at the bottom."

However, in an Esquire exclusive, John Yoo Responds to this Week's Revelations. He says that he did express his reservations "to officials higher up the chain of command." I'd like for one of those documents to be released, but I'm not holding my breathe. Here is a snippet of his explanation:
“The basic substance of the memo released yesterday and the one released in 2004 is the same,” Yoo said Wednesday. “The memo released yesterday does not apply to Iraq. It applied to interrogations of al Qaeda detained at Guantanamo Bay. I don’t [necessarily] agree that the methods did migrate to Iraq, because I don’t know for a fact that they did. The analysis of the memo released yesterday was not to apply to Iraq, and we made clear in other settings that the Geneva Conventions fully applied to the war in Iraq. There was no intention or desire that the memo released yesterday apply to Iraq.”
Call me cynical, but does he know that our leaders can barely differentiate between Sunnis, Shi'ites, al Qaeda, Taliban, Iraqi citizens, and a dozen other groups? Of course the torture will migrate from one branch of the government and military to another branch... from use on one group of people to another. Torture has migrated from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, and there is evidence that it could migrate home. From a Harper's interview with Darius Rejali:
Yes, torture does migrate, and there are some good examples of it both in American and French history. The basic idea here is that soldiers who get ahead torturing come back and take jobs as policemen, and private security, and they get ahead doing the same things they did in the army. And so torture comes home.
The Washington Post also has an interview where the same author discusses 5 Myths About Torture.

But I'm digressing. This post is about Yoo, and all I have left to say about the guy is that he's still teaching law at Berkeley. Feel free to send him some fan mail to the address listed on his page.

I realize I provided a ton of links here, so if you only have time to read a few, I recommend the Harper's interview, the Vanity Fair article, and the Esquire article.

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