Tuesday, March 10, 2009

John "Torture Memo" Yoo & the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution

Explanatory note: The Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution is an annual event funded by the Annenberg Foundation. It's a propaganda farce, of course:

Faculty for 2009

Kenneth W. Starr, Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law

John Yoo, Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California at Irvine School of Law

Todd Brewster, Director of the Center for Oral History, United States Military Academy West Point

Akhil Amar, Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Susan Estrich, Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Southern California

David Westin, President, ABC News

Sherrilyn Ifill, Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law

Messing with Our Liberty isn't any President's Job
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If you were wondering to what extent President George W. Bush was messing with our rights and liberties, look no further than the story that broke earlier this week.

On Monday morning, National Public Radio reported that President Barack Obama's administration had on that day revealed the Bush administration's "anti-terrorism memos that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers and divulging that the CIA had destroyed 92 videotapes of interrogations and other treatment of terrorism suspects."

While the Bushies ultimately concluded they couldn't get away with some of the things outlined in the memos, the story indicates that President Bush "had broad authority to set aside constitutional rights."

Given their druthers, we'd have no Fourth Amendment protections. Bring on the unwarranted searches and seizures.

And First Amendment rights? Meh, wrote Bush's Deputy Assistant Attorney General John "Torture Memo" Yoo. "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully...(and) may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."

The NPR story indicated that Yoo didn't return calls. How come? Well, he might've been busy playing catch-up on messages. After all, he was a faculty member at the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution in Philadelphia over the weekend. I was there as a fellow, and in deference to my generous hosts, held back on cornering Yoo, who was there as an esteemed guest of the program. Unfortunately, he didn't hold a panel (not even an off-the-record one) on what he was thinking when he wrote that anything short of pain equaling that of organ failure or death wasn't torture. No, he didn't seem remorseful, but one can hope. None of the other members of the Bush administration sitting on a fascinating behind-the-scenes panel (including White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith) seemed wracked with guilt. That party line? They're still clinging to it, so much so that one member of the audience snapped, calling them "a den of vipers." ...

Now, about those 92 tapes...

Until now, the CIA had copped to destroying three tapes documenting the interrogation -- and torture -- of terror suspects. We were told in late 2007 that that the tapes had been destroyed with the knowledge of several Bush administration attorneys in November 2005, five months after a U.S. District Court judge ordered the government to save "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at Guantanamo Bay."

According to the Los Angeles Times, all the tapes -- not just the three -- were destroyed after that order. This is why no administration -- that includes Obama's -- ought to have the kind of power and secrecy Bush's yielded.

As an aside, I'd hate to take off without saying: I'll miss you -- dear readers -- all of you. You've taught me much, and I won't let those lessons go to waste.

D. Parvaz is an editorial writer.

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