A group called Keep America Safe has published an ad (video available at KAS’s website) criticising several Justice Department lawyers for having represented Guantanamo Bay detainees. I was glad to read that many prominent lawyers in conservative or Bush White House circles, including Kenneth W. Starr, Charles D. Stimson, Peter D. Keisler, and Larry D. Thompson, have criticised the ad on the grounds that it is in the best traditions of the American bar to represent unpopular clients.
KAS’s ad is obviously odious and repugnant. But the controversy has made me briefly reconsider my criticisms of John Yoo, prime mover behind the infamous torture memos. I have called for his impeachment, disbarment, and firing from Boalt Hall (“Impeach John Yoo!”) and mocked his about-face on the limits of executive power now that a Democrat is in office (“John Yoo: Plumbing New Depths of Ineptitude”). Ted Olson has pointed out that many who have criticised KAS’s add “were ‘completely silent’ in the face of ‘vicious attacks’ on Bush administration lawyers handling terrorism issues”, presumably including Yoo. Is it unfair of me to attack Yoo but to reject thuggish attacks such as the Keep America Safe ad?
Well, I think Olson makes a fair point, and it’s fair to point out also that Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis recently overruled a finding by the Office of Professional Responsibility that Yoo and others had committed professional misconduct, concluding instead only that they showed poor judgment.
On the other hand, Yoo himself continues to beat the drum for limitless executive power when it comes to torture, and I still think he’s therefore a Sith-like threat to the Republic. And contrary to the views of the many conservative lawyers who have criticised Keep America Safe, Yoo seems to take the view that the job of the DOJ lawyers is purely political, and thus that attacks on them are okay:
“What’s the big whoop?” he asked. “The Constitution makes the president the chief law enforcement officer. We had an election. President Obama has softer policies on terror than his predecessor.” He said, “He can and should put people into office who share his views.” Once the American people know who the policy makers are, he said, “they can decide whether they agree with him or not.”
In short, I think Lindsay Graham or some other principled Republican senator should emulate Cato and end all his speeches in the Senate with the phrase, “Furthermore, it is my opinion that Yoo must be destroyed.”