Monday, December 26, 2005

who are yoo?

Today the Post profiled Berkeley law professor John Yoo. You may remember Yoo (if not by name) for what he did in his previous job, as a lawyer at the Department of Justice. Yoo was the guy who said that you could do whatever you want to prisoners and not call it "torture" as long as it didn't result in pain equivalent to organ failure. Yoo was the guy who said that the President has practically unlimited power to prosecute the "war" on terror however he wanted, including the ability to detain even Americans as "enemy combatants," and the ability to conduct domestic surveillance without judicial approval, despite laws passed by Congress that explicitly required warrants for all such surveillance. Yoo was the guy who said the Geneva Conventions were obsolete.

All of which makes the following quote from Yoo quite ironic: "It would be inappropriate for a lawyer to say, 'The law means A, but I'm going to say B because to interpret it as A would violate American values. A lawyer's job is if the law says A, the law says A."

Pardon my skepticism. Yoo also said he didn't do "policy" but his consistent interpretations of laws and the Constitution in ways that aggrandize the power of the Presidency look more to me like the work of somebody told to "find a way to let us do what we want to do" than an honest legal analysis. OK, maybe Yoo didn't do "policy" -- he was just the guy designated to make up justifications.

In other words, Yoo read laws that mean A, but said B.

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