[Ppnews] CCR Supports Call for Dismissal and Prosecution of John Yoo

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 18 11:55:33 EDT 2008

Center for Constitutional Rights Supports National Lawyers Guild Call 
for Dismissal and Prosecution of John Yoo


April 18, 2008 By Marjorie Cohn

On April 1, a secret 81-page memo written by former Deputy Assistant 
Attorney General John Yoo in March 2003 was made public.  In that 
memo, Yoo advised the Bush administration that the Department of 
Justice's Office of Legal Counsel would not enforce  U.S.criminal 
laws, including federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming 
and stalking in the detention and interrogation of enemy 
combatants.  The week after the publication of Yoo's memo, the 
National Lawyers Guild issued a press release calling for 
the     BoaltHallLawSchoolat the  Universityof to dismiss Yoo, who is 
now a professor of law there.  The NLG also called for the 
prosecution of Yoo for war crimes and for his disbarment.California

Two days later, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a 
letter supporting the NLG's call for Yoo's dismissal and 
prosecution.  CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren wrote, "The 
'Torture Memo' was not an abstract, academic foray. Rather, it was 
crafted to sidestep  U.S.and international laws that make coercive 
interrogation and torture a crime. It was written with the knowledge 
that its legal conclusions were to be applied to the interrogations 
of hundreds of individual detainees... And it worked. It became the 
basis for the CIA's use of extreme interrogation methods as well the 
basis for DOD interrogation policy... Yoo's legal opinions as well as 
the others issued by the Office of Legal Counsel were the keystone of 
the torture program, and were the necessary precondition for the 
torture program's creation and implementation."

The day after the NLG issued its press release, Boalt Hall Dean 
Christopher Edley, Jr. posted a statement on the Boalt Hall website, 
responding to "the New York Times (editorial April 4), the National 
Lawyers' Guild, and hundreds of individuals from around the world" 
who had criticized or questioned Yoo's continuing employment at Boalt Hall.

Dean Edley cited the  Universityof California's Academic Personnel 
Manual sec. 015, which lists under "Types of unacceptable conduct: 
... Commission of a criminal act which has led to conviction in a 
court of law and which clearly demonstrates unfitness to continue as 
a member of the faculty."  Edley said he was not convinced Yoo had 
engaged in "clear professional misconduct - that is, some breach of 
the professional ethics applicable to a government attorney - 
material to Professor Yoo's academic position."  Edley was likewise 
not convinced "the writing of the memoranda, and [Yoo's] related 
conduct, violate[d] a criminal or comparable statute."

Edley felt Yoo's conduct was not "morally equivalent to that of his 
nominal clients, Secretary Rumsfeld, et al., or comparable to the 
conduct of interrogators distant in time, rank, and place."  Edley 
wrote, "Yes, it does matter that Yoo was an adviser, but President 
Bush and his national security appointees were the deciders."

Indeed, ABC News reported last week that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza 
Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft 
met in the White House and micromanaged the torture of terrorism 
suspects by approving specific torture techniques such as 
waterboarding.  George W. Bush, the decider-in-chief, admitted, "yes, 
I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

These top  U.S.officials are liable for war crimes under the U.S. War 
Crimes Act, and for violation of the Convention Against Torture and 
the Geneva Conventions, which are all part of  U.S.law.  They ordered 
the torture which was carried out by the interrogators.

But John Yoo and the other Justice Department lawyers, including 
David Addington, Jay Bybee, William Haynes and Alberto Gonzales, are 
also liable for the same offenses.  They were an integral part of a 
criminal conspiracy to violate  U.S.laws.  In U.S. v. Altstoetter, 
Nazi lawyers were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity 
for advising Hitler on how to "legally" disappear political suspects 
to special detention camps.  The  United Statescharged that since 
they were lawyers, "not farmers or factory workers," they should have 
known their technical justifications for circumventing  the Hagueand 
Geneva Conventions were illegal.

The cases of Altstoetter and those of the Bush lawyers share common 
aspects.  Both dealt with people detained during wartime who were not 
POWs; in both, it was reasonably foreseeable that the advice they 
gave would result in great physical or mental harm or death to many 
detainees; and in both, the advice was legally erroneous.  More than 
108 people have died in  U.S.detention since 9/11, many from 
torture.  And the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel 
later withdrew the memoranda, an admission that the advice in them 
was defective.

Furthermore, the Bush lawyers have engaged in ethical violations 
which should result in their disbarment.  As New York University 
School of Law Professor Stephen Gillers wrote in The Nation, H. 
Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the Justice Department's Office of 
Professional Responsibility, who is examining the legal advice these 
lawyers provided, "should find that this work is not 'consistent with 
the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys.'"

Even Dean Edley appears to recognize that the case of John Yoo is not 
a simple issue of academic freedom, such as "merely some professor 
vigorously expounding controversial and even extreme views."

As CCR President Michael Ratner wrote in the forthcoming book, The 
Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, "Had these various opinions been written as 
a law school or academic exercise, they could be merely condemned and 
their authors would fail their class, but they would not be held 
criminally accountable. But they were not an academic exercise. They 
were written by high-level attorneys [such as John Yoo] in a context 
where the opinions represented the governing law and were to be 
employed by the President in setting detainee policy. This was more 
than bad lawyering; this was aiding and abetting their clients' 
violation of the law by justifying the commission of a crime using 
false legal rhetoric."

It is inconceivable that Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who has 
served as a rubber stamp for Bush's illegal policies, will bring any 
of these leaders or lawyers to justice.  There is a chance that a 
future attorney general will do so.  Barack Obama has pledged to have 
his Justice Department and Attorney General "immediately review the 
information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries 
that need to be pursued . . . if crimes have been committed, they 
should be investigated . . . Now, if I found out that there were high 
officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in 
coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a 
basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the 
law."  Congress should repeal the provision of the Military 
Commissions Act that would give these deciders and lawyers immunity 
from prosecution for torture and other mistreatment committed from 
September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005.

In addition to criminal prosecutions, disbarments, and the dismissal 
of John Yoo from the Boalt Hall faculty, Jay Bybee, who was rewarded 
for his illegal advice with a federal judgeship, should be removed 
from the bench by impeachment.

It is time for the impunity enjoyed by the Bush administration to 
come to an end.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and 
the President of the National Lawyers Guild.  She is the author of 
"CowboyRepublic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law."   Her 
articles are archived at <http://www.marjoriecohn.com/>www.marjoriecohn.com.

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