They Did Authorize Torture, But …

nybooks:

David Cole

John Yoo; drawing by David Levine

Whatever else you might say about John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who drafted several memos in 2002 authorizing the CIA to commit torture, you have to admit that he’s not in the least embarrassed by the condemnation of his peers. On February 19, the Justice Department released a set of previously confidential reports by its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) excoriating Yoo’s legal work—but stopped short of referring him for professional discipline by his state bar association. Since then Yoo has written Op-Eds for The Wall Street Journal and The Philadelphia Inquirer trumpeting his “victory.” In the Wall Street Journal piece, entitled “My Gift to the Obama Presidency,” Yoo argued that President Obama owes him a debt of gratitude for “winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.” Four days later, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yoo called the decision not to refer him for bar discipline “a victory for the people fighting the war on terror.”

This is a bit like a child coming home with an F on his report card and telling his parents that they should congratulate him for not getting suspended, or President Clinton proclaiming to Hillary that Congress’s failure to impeach him was a vindication of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

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Yoo’s theory, that a president by virtue of winning an election gets to be absolute lord and master over the country for the next four years, is disturbing. But you have to give the guy credit; he seems equally OK with letting Obama having the power of life and death over him.