Shame on Yoo

The New York Times reports today that soon after 9/11, “President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.”

Who provided the legal justification to spy (perhaps illegally) on Americans without judicial oversight? None other than former Justice Department official John Yoo. It’s not the first time Yoo has advised the administration to push moral, legal and ethical boundaries:

Yoo Argued Interrogation Wasn’t Torture Unless It Resulted In Organ Failure or Death: Yoo also wrote an infamous torture memo which argued that interrogation techniques only constitute torture if they are “equivalent in intensity to…organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” The Bush administration was forced to repudiate that memo once it became public. Yoo continues to defend it, saying the new torture definition “makes it harder to figure out how the torture statute applies to specific interrogation methods.”

Yoo Argued President Bush Didn’t Need To Ask Congress Before Invading Iraq: Yoo has also argued that “President Bush didn’t need to ask Congress for permission to invade Iraq.” The 1973 War Powers Resolution, according to Yoo, is “irrelevant.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed the argument when she told a congressional committee that “the president has the right to attack Syria, without congressional approval, if he deems that a necessary move in the war on terror.”

Yoo Argued Geneva Conventions Do Not Apply to Detainees: Thanks to Yoo’s legal work, the Bush administration justified the creation of a new category of detainees: “illegal enemy combatants.” “Yoo and other Administration lawyers began advising President Bush (after 9/11) that he did not have to comply with the Geneva Conventions in handling detainees in the war on terror,” the New Yorker reported earlier this year.

Although Yoo is now a law professor, his views remain influential in the Bush administration. Maybe it’s time to stop taking his advice.