CORRECTION: Sharon Adams, a lawyer affiliated with the NLG, is quoted in this article. She does not want Yoo to be fired. Her quotes should not be considered within the context of the "Fire John Yoo!" campaign because she is not connected with it all. The subtitle of this article has been changed to reflect her position on the issue of Yoo and the torture memos. I apologize for misrepresenting Adams and thank her for her contributions to the article.
President Barack Obama may have come into office pledging to end torture, but Obama has shown no indication that he will condemn the Nuremberg defense (“only following orders”) when used by former members of the Bush Administration who have been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
ABC News reported last week that Obama is defending John Yoo, a lawyer who wrote the “torture memo” for the Bush Administration, in California federal court against suit being brought by Jose Padilla, who claims that “Yoo’s memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture.”
The Obama Justice Department claims that “recourse” is “for the executive to decide, in the first instance, and for Congress to decide," in the second instance. The courts should have no role, and since the Congress did not impeach prior to Bush leaving office, Congress should probably engage in little "recourse" also.
Obama’s Justice Department similarly adopted the Bush "state secrets" argument prior to defending Yoo when it asked the court “to dismiss a case against a flight data company that aided the CIA in performing alleged acts of extraordinary rendition.”
While Obama’s Justice Department agrees to assist in the legal defense of Yoo, so-called anti-terror memos released last week show the Bush Administration had people like Yoo develop legal justification for prosecuting the “war on terror” and “ignoring the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press and Fourth Amendment requirements for search warrants.” [See Jason Leopold’s article for more.]
The memos offered justification for the domestic deployment of military and granted the unitary executive the power to label any person an “enemy combatant” if deemed necessary even if the accused could prove he or she was not an “enemy combatant” by showing proper identification.
A poll in February indicated that “62 percent of Americans favor a criminal investigation or an independent panel to look into the use of torture, illegal wiretapping, and other alleged abuses of power by the Bush administration.”
In response to Obama’s lofty behavior toward accountability, citizens are organizing grassroots campaigns which will lead to consequences for those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those who supported policies of torture will be brought to justice if citizens of America are granted the power to decide.
Yoo and Torture
Speaking to the issue of John Yoo’s memos, which provide the legal justification for torture, Linda Rigas, a student/organizer affiliated with the “Fire John Yoo!” campaign, offered insight on John Yoo and how a group of activists from the World Can’t Wait and other citizen groups are pressing for justice and consequences for the legal memos Yoo produced.
The “Fire John Yoo!” campaign began when it became evident that there was a need to actually confront John Yoo at Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley.
Rigas explained when Yoo decided to write memos for the Bush Administration he “left Boalt Hall to go work in the Office of Legal Counsel, which is the Supreme Court of the Executive Branch” which “makes the laws that the Executive then puts forth and brings to Congress for approval.”
Yoo returned to Boalt Hall to continue teaching UC Berkeley students classes on law.
“I think that John Yoo continuing to hold a place of legitimacy within an academic institution actually has really dangerous implications for the future of legality and for the future of how the Constitution will be read,” said Rigas.