“Near Boilerplate”

That’s how John Yoo describes the legal advice he gave to the President. In an 81-page memo, Yoo claimed that executive power in wartime is virtually unlimited and that laws banning torture simply don’t apply. The (finally) declassified memo is available here and here. Just how far from “boilerplate” was this memo?

The Office of Legal Counsel is responsible for providing competent and objective advice to the president on questions of federal and international law. But the legal framework invented by John Yoo did not in fact follow the law. His argument that the president’s commander-in-chief authority trumps all law was a carefully-crafted, results-oriented effort to authorize violations of laws and treaties prohibiting torture and to immunize CIA and military interrogators from prosecution for war crimes.

Yoo’s assertion that necessity and self-defense may justify a violation of the Convention Against Torture, which explicitly states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” justify torture, and his failure to even mention the 4th Geneva Convention, which protects detainees not entitled to PoW status, blatantly expose his intention to bend the law to protect lawless behavior.

That is not the job of the OLC. It is the essence of dictatorship.


Published on April 2, 2008


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