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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yoo Applies Famous Tortured Logic to Boumediene Decision

It seems that John Yoo’s tenure at Berkeley’s renowned Boalt School of Law has done nothing to improve his warped legal thinking. Mr. Yoo, whose work with the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel included writing the now infamous “torture memos,” wrote an editorial yesterday for the Wall Street Journal in which he categorized the Supreme Court’s habeas decision last week as “judicial imperialism of the highest order.”

Mr. Yoo made headlines back in April when an 81-page memo he authored for the Office of Legal Counsel which attempted to justify the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” policies was released to the public. At the time, many members of the legal community called for Yoo to be disciplined – and even fired – by Berkeley administrators. But Yoo and his supporters pushed back, demanding that he should not be held responsible for counsel he provided at the behest of his “client,” the president. **Of course, the nature of Yoo's role and who his client ultimately was – the president or the American people – is a question for another day**

It seems odd then, that he felt inclined yesterday to defend the policies of the president, who is no longer his client, by claiming that last week’s 5-4 decision exceeded the Court’s authority by defying “the considered judgment of the president and Congress…all to grant captured al Qaeda terrorists the exact same rights as American citizens to a day in civilian court.”

Mr. Yoo even goes so far as to say that last week’s decision “should finally put to rest the popular myth that right-wing conservatives dominate the Supreme Court.” Really? It seems his math is as fuzzy as his grasp of constitutional law. As Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron noted, this split decision serves only to highlight the precarious balance of the Court – not discredit its existence.

Mr. Yoo’s laughable analysis of the Boumediene decision shows how little regard he has for facts and just how far he is willing to go in justifying the Bush administration’s claims of unfettered executive power.

On his Salon.com blog, civil rights attorney Glenn Greenwald responded to Yoo’s editorial, saying “It takes an indescribably authoritarian mind to believe that one’s own Government should have the power to put people in cages for life without having to provide them any meaningful opportunity to prove that they did not do what they are accused of.”

In response to Yoo’s assertion that last week’s decision provides captured al Qaeda operatives the same rights as American citizens, Mr. Greenwald asks, “What minimally self-respecting law professor would be willing to make this claim with a straight face?”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Boumediene showed that despite the efforts of lawyers like Mr. Yoo, our country is still rooted in the rule of law – something we seem to have forgotten during the dismal years of the Bush administration. The right of habeas corpus is so central to our system of government, it was included separate from the Bill of Rights and incorporated in the actual body of our Constitution. As such, the Court’s attempts to check the excesses of our executive is not only justified, but required by this nation’s most sacred document.

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