John Yoo is hardly the first lawyer to throw his honor and reputation down the sewer: but surely he’s among the brightest. Given that Yoo is a dedicated right winger and Federalist Society star, he’s hardly my idea of the ideal legal scholar. But no one can doubt his intellect: educated at Harvard University and Yale Law, followed by clerkships with high profile far right jurists Laurence H. Silberman and Clarence Thomas and a stint as general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee — this dude is no intellectual slouch.
And that, of course, is the real tragedy in his willingness to prostitute the law in the service of Bush & Co. He knew better. He had to know better. Hell, the fictional not yet licensed lawyer, Vinny, from the movie My Cousin Vinny, would have known better (and could probably have written a more coherent legal opinion than some of Yoo’s). And yet the hits keep coming. We already knew about Yoo’s disgraceful torture memos in 2003. I wrote about that a month ago, even penning this little poem:
Boohoo, boohoo, boohoo, boohoo
I shed a tear for poor John Yoo.
A little torture he thought was fine,
So now he may have to do hard time.
He stretched the law that much we know,
Gave the rule of law an awful blow.
He had to know that his words were wrong,
So will he soon sing a jailhouse song?
But the latest installment of the Yoo chronicles of disgrace (cosigned by Robert Delahunty) — a just released legal memo providing the “intellectual support” for making George W. Bush de facto dictator of the United States — may, as hard as it is to believe, actually beat out the torture memo. It’s like the second Godfather movie: no one thought they could ever top the original film (in that case speaking in terms of excellence), but they may have done it. And Yoo (now speaking in terms of disgrace) may actually have done the same.
The opinion authorizing the military to operate domestically was dated Oct. 23, 2001, and written by John C. Yoo, at the time a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, and Robert J. Delahunty, a special counsel in the office. It was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked whether Mr. Bush could use the military to combat terrorist activities inside the United States.
The use of the military envisioned in the Yoo-Delahunty reply appears to transcend by far the stationing of troops to keep watch at streets and airports, a familiar sight in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The memorandum discussed the use of military forces to carry out “raids on terrorist cells” and even seize property.
“The law has recognized that force (including deadly force) may be legitimately used in self-defense,” Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty wrote to Mr. Gonzales. Therefore any objections based on the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches are swept away, they said, since any possible privacy offense resulting from such a search is a lesser matter than any injury from deadly force.
What utter nonsense. Equating the actions of public officials in ignoring the Fourth Amendment with the private right of self-defense? That’s like arguing it’s fine to serve motor oil on scrambled eggs, since, after all, it works great in your car. The one situation has nothing to do with the other.
And a guy as bright as John Yoo had to known that. But he had a job to do — to defend the indefensible.
And to his never ending shame he did it.
Oh, and by the way, there are apparently more Yoo opinion memos, some perhaps even worse, still to come.