Thursday, April 3, 2008

He got a diploma?

Lawyers, it is said, consistently rank among the lowest professions in terms of public respect. This is almost certainly unfair, as any one of use could be in dire need of an attorney tomorrow. It is hard, though, to imagine needing John Yoo, at least in a legal capacity.

The released Yoo memos (no doubt there are unreleased/destroyed ones that are outside our purview) have drawn comment for their most obvious traits, ie sadism and cold evil. But what may be even more disrurbing is the crudity of Yoo's thinking. He seems not to have been a Machiavellian counselor in the Kissinger mode so much as an armchair torturer who happened to have a degree. Case in point.

The document disclosed, for example, that the administration's top lawyers had declared that the president has unfettered power to seize oceangoing ships as commander in chief; that Congress has no ability to pass legislation governing the interrogations of enemy combatants; and that federal laws prohibiting assault and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives.

One section discussed to what extent the president might be allowed to legally maim a prisoner, such as through the use of a "scalding, corrosive, or caustic substance." A footnote argued that Fifth Amendment guarantees of due-process rights "do not address actions the Executive takes in conducting a military campaign against the Nation's enemies."

With that last sentence, in place of "do not address" a sane person might say "do not make exceptions for." The thrust of Yoo's arguments could be refuted by anyone with a copy of the constitution and a working knowledge of the alphabet. Which may be why his federal clients like to stay away from non-rigged trials.

As to why this man is teaching at Berkeley, I can only assume he plays an excellent game of squash.

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