X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer often mocked on his Berkeley campus as “professor torture,” came to New York City last week for a pair of speaking engagements that attracted large crowds of attorneys and law students. At neither venue was he even mildly rebutted by fellow constitutional scholars or derided by protestors – unlike the often noisy occurrences in numerous other appearances by Mr. Yoo, the co-drafter of the USA Patriot Act and author of a 2002 legal memorandum suggesting that nothing short of “organ failure or . . . death” constitutes torture of alleged al Qaeda operatives by U.S. military interrogators. Last week, the soft-spoken and frequently humorous Mr. Yoo participated in a formal debate on domestic surveillance held uptown at the Asia Society on Wednesday. On Friday, he spoke downtown at New York Law School during a public lunchtime interview with New York Times reporter Adam Liptak on the subject of Mr. Yoo’s relationship with the media. The debate resolution at the Asia Society event, sponsored by the Rosenkranz Foundation, was “Better More Domestic Surveillance than Another 9/11.” In arguing for the resolution, Mr. Yoo was joined by conservative journalist David Frum and Andrew C. McCarthy, former chief assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District. Opposing were liberal journalist Jeffrey Rosen, New York Law Professor and ACLU President Nadine Strossen and former Congressman Bob Barr, R-Ga. After thanking the event sponsors for the opportunity to “escape the People’s Republic of Berkeley,” where he teaches constitutional law at the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Mr. Yoo devoted much of his allocated eight minutes of opening arguments to listing the extraordinary – and constitutionally dubious – wartime security measures taken by presidents other than George W. Bush. In view of many Americans who object to Mr. Bush’s measures, Mr. Yoo asked the rhetorical question, “Are we really in a civil liberties crisis when bloggers are able to say . . . things?” And in the context of unintended consequences, Mr. Yoo conflated champions of pre-9/11 civil liberties with environmentalist demands for small, fuel-efficient cars that “cause more people to die on highways because the vehicles are lighter.” Mr. Barr, appointed by President Ronald Reagan as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and noted for his conservative sentiments in areas apart from domestic surveillance, gave the most forceful argument against Mr. Yoo’s team. “Hell no!” he said to the debate resolution. With credit to the libertarian philosopher and writer Ayn Rand, he added, “Privacy is the essence of civilization itself.” And in response to Mr. Yoo’s defense of preventing some future terrorist attack on American soil by way of warrantless wiretapping and so-called national security letters, Mr. Barr declared, “Fear is the driving force behind every expanded power the federal government seeks. This administration, which has violated laws, is now seeking legitimacy for more access to our private lives – and a grant of immunity for past violations.” A pre-debate survey of the approximately 700 people in attendance found 41 percent in favor of Mr. Yoo’s position and 37 percent against, with 22 percent undecided. Afterwards, 57 percent were against, 39 percent in favor and about 5 percent undecided. New York Law Event During last Friday’s staged conversation at New York Law, the Times’ Mr. Liptak took a collegial tone with Mr. Yoo, 39, who between college and law school worked as a newspaper reporter in Washington, D.C. “We both believe in institutions that are accountable to no one – John for the [Bush] administration and me for the press,” said Mr. Liptak early in the discussion. Nevertheless, Mr. Yoo countered, “I wish the government was much more open because I think the people would be more confident.” For that reason, said Mr. Yoo, he made a conscious decision to speak publicly about his time at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. “Should I say nothing?” Mr. Yoo said he asked himself. “Or should I try to provide a defense? I thought I had an obligation to explain what I did – and why.” At several points, Mr. Yoo distanced himself from full responsibility for the controversial notions expressed in his 2002 legal memo, in which he advised then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales that “enemy combatants” linked to nonstate players, such as al Qaeda, did not enjoy protections under the United National Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the United States is a signatory. During his tenure at the Justice Department under former Attorney General John Ashcroft – which he described as an “unpleasant” experience – Mr. Yoo said he labored at “the lowest level” of presidential appointment. Among others, Mr. Yoo reported at the time to Judge Jay S. Bybee, appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2003. Mr. Liptak did not ask Mr. Yoo about the upshot of his 2002 memo, leaked to the press in 2004 following revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad: namely, outrage in the legal community leading to the Justice Department’s disassociation with permissible interrogation methods delineated by Mr. Yoo and Judge Bybee. Mr. Yoo’s codification of such methodology, Mr. Liptak assured the audience, “doesn’t mean he approved that.” Among those in attendance at the New York Law luncheon interview was Professor Eric M. Freedman of Hofstra University School of Law, who acts as a constitutional consultant for many of the American lawyers representing detainees at the joint military prison and interrogation camp at Guant�namo Bay Naval Base. Mr. Freedman suggested that the gentle treatment of Mr. Yoo in New York, in contrast to his reception elsewhere, could be due to a “denser set of associations, with people interested in future talks with him.” Mr. Yoo left the New York Law audience with his own thoughts on the future. “If there’s another 9/11,” he said, “the Patriot Act will be like child’s play compared to what people will be asking for.” - Thomas Adcock can be reached at [email protected].

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.