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Yoo's Gift To President Obama: Return to Sender Hotlist

Jesselyn Radack, February 25, 2010

This post was written by GAP Homeland Security Director Jesselyn Radack for her Daily Kos blog.

Recently cleared of professional misconduct by Justice Department bureaucrat David Margolis, torture memo author John Yoo contends in the Wall Street Journal that his irresponsible lawyering and depraved advice regarding interrogation techniques are actually a "gift" to President Obama.

Well, I hope Yoo included a gift receipt, because no U.S. President who values the Constitution and separation of powers should want a "gift" of power from any extreme unitary executive theorist who passes his ideas off as mainstream legal thinking and authorizes torture and cruel and inhumane treatment in the U.S.'s name.

John Yoo preposterously thinks he's done this country a great service by advising a U.S. President that, among other things, duly ratified treaties, like the Geneva Conventions, are optional and that the other branches of government cannot interfere with Presidential wartime actions. Yoo says:

Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.

Frankly, Mr. Yoo, just because in your wild world of rampant executive power, you think you have won something, it is not a "win" to have a credible finding from the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that you engaged in "intentional professional misconduct." You have not achieved some "victory" when even the bureaucrat (Margolis) who was able to let you keep your law license found that you exercised "poor judgment" and your memos contained "some significant flaws," and the Attorney General who criticized OPR's report (Mukasey) called your work a "slovenly mistake."

Obama should not be swayed by Yoo's self-serving scare tactics. We are no safer because of Yoo's memoranda, contrary to Yoo's assertions that "[w]ithout a vigorous commander-in-chief power at his disposal, Mr. Obama will struggle to win any of these victories." No U.S. President needs the power to waterboard or abuse detainees to lead this country. In fact, our Democracy is intact because we have curtailed overreaching executive power, particularly the kind of power that infringes on the basic human rights of individuals.

The "torture memos" have shaken our core constitutional values and the damage may be irreparable now that the Justice Department has refused to hold Yoo and company professionally accountable for the advice they gave.

As today's New York Times Editorial laments:

Is this really the state of ethics in the American legal profession? Government lawyers who abused their offices to give the president license to get away with torture did nothing that merits a review by the bar?

Obama should return Yoo's gift, and order an investigation by a body better equipped to obtain justice than the Justice Department, which, as we can see from Margolis's memo, is obviously too self-interested and compromised to ensure government lawyers adhere to the ethics rules.