The New York Times, in a front-page profile by Tim Golden published on Friday, portrays John C. Yoo merely as a serious-minded "34-year-old former law professor whose academic work had focused on foreign affairs and war-powers issues."[1]  --  But the narrative frame of the Times article is misleading.  -- In fact, John C. Yoo is not some lone legal scholar chosen to work on important questions because of his brilliance, but a member of an ideological movement bent on transforming the nature of the American state.  --  He is part of a radical ideological group known as the Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization participating in an effort to transform the nature of American society and politics.  --  The Washington Monthly called the Federalist Society a "conservative cabal" in 2000.  --  Tim Golden describes John C. Yoo as part of a "group of conservative legal scholars."  --  But neither Yoo nor the Federalist Society is "conservative."  --  They are, rather, part of the radical right.  --  It was because of Yoo's involvement with this movement -- which, though the Times has written about it on other occasions, goes unmentioned and unidentified in this article -- that he was able, as Golden naively puts it, to "establish himself as a critical player in the Bush administration's legal response to the terrorist threat, and an influential advocate for the expansive claims of presidential authority that have been a hallmark of that response."  --  (The Times's unwillingness to explain the solution of the supposed mystery of how someone who was a "mere deputy assistant attorney general in the legal counsel office" was able to play such an important role suggests that the newspaper is hedging its bets, aware that it may have to deal with him as a powerful figure in the future.  Certainly Tim Golden knows all about this: he wrote about it at length in the Times on Oct. 24, 2004 [see below].)  --  The Times says that "Mr. Yoo built particularly strong working relationships with several key legal officials in the White House and the Pentagon," but these relationships were, in fact, pre-built.  --  The Times tells a meritocratic tale of "young legal talent" being recognized and promoted.  --  The notion that it was by chance that Yoo happened to play this role in the aftermath of Sept. 11 because of his "academic background and interests" is absurd; in fact, he was placed there for just such a purpose, along with others, like Alberto Gonzales, Jay S. Bybee, and William J. Haynes II.  --  Yoo's confident pursuit of his activities at present is not so much evidence of his personal pluck as it is evidence that this right-wing ideological movement is still confident that its purposes can be achieved, no doubt with the help of another terrorist attack.  --  In "The John C. Yoo Watch," Madeleine Lee of UFPPC lists the articles posted on this web site about John C. Yoo and the Federalist Society.[2] ...



The Advocate

By Tim Golden

New York Times
December 23, 2005
Page A1

Moments after planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, lawyers in the Justice Department's elite Office of Legal Counsel began crowding into the office of one of the agency's newest deputies, John C. Yoo, to watch the horror unfold on his television set.

"We all stood around watching this event, and he just seemed very calm, like he wasn't going to let these terrorists stop him from doing his work," recalled Robert J. Delahunty, a friend of Mr. Yoo's who worked in the office.

Fearful of another attack and told that all "nonessential personnel" should evacuate, Mr. Delahunty and others streamed out of the department's headquarters and walked home. Mr. Yoo, then a 34-year-old former law professor whose academic work had focused on foreign affairs and war-powers issues, was asked to stay behind, and he quickly found himself in the department's command center, on the phone to lawyers at the White House.

Within weeks, Mr. Yoo had begun to establish himself as a critical player in the Bush administration's legal response to the terrorist threat, and an influential advocate for the expansive claims of presidential authority that have been a hallmark of that response.

While a mere deputy assistant attorney general in the legal counsel office, Mr. Yoo was a primary author of a series of legal opinions on the fight against terrorism, including one that said the Geneva Conventions did not apply and at least two others that countenanced the use of highly coercive interrogation techniques on terror suspects. Recently, current and former officials said he also wrote a still-secret 2002 memorandum that gave legal backing to the administration's secret program to eavesdrop on the international communications of Americans and others inside the United States without federal warrants.

A genial, soft-spoken man with what friends say is a fiercely competitive streak, Mr. Yoo built particularly strong working relationships with several key legal officials in the White House and the Pentagon. Some current and former government officials contend that those relationships were in fact so close that Mr. Yoo was able to operate with a degree of autonomy that rankled senior Justice Department officials, including John Ashcroft, then the attorney general.

More than two years after Mr. Yoo returned to teaching, controversy over some of the legal positions he staked out for the administration in his two years in government has only continued to grow. Last year, an opinion he wrote on interrogations with the head of the legal counsel office, Jay S. Bybee, was publicly disavowed by the White House, a highly unusual step. Now, the revelation of the eavesdropping program has renewed the criticism.

In the uproar, Mr. Yoo has stood fast and even smiled cheerfully. Despite occasional campus protests and calls for his resignation, he has remained -- somewhat incongruously but, he says, quite happily -- on the law faculty at the liberal University of California, Berkeley. He keeps a busy schedule of speeches and debates at colleges and universities around the country. He is promoting a new book, and appears frequently on television to take on legal and policy issues that many former officials will discuss only under cloak of anonymity.

"I didn't go into these subjects looking for a brawl," Mr. Yoo said in an interview. Of his work at the Justice Department he added: "I had this job, and I had these questions to answer. I think it's my responsibility to explain how I thought them through."

Mr. Yoo is often identified as the most aggressive among a group of conservative legal scholars who have challenged the importance of international law in the American legal system. But his signature contributions to the policies of the Bush administration have had more to do with his forceful assertion of wide presidential powers in wartime.

While Mr. Yoo has become almost famous for some of his writings -- the refutation of both his academic and government work has become almost a cottage industry among more liberal legal scholars and human rights lawyers -- much less is known about how he came to wield the remarkable influence he had after Sept. 11 on issues related to terrorism.

That Washington tale began about a decade before Mr. Yoo joined the administration in July 2001, when he finished at Yale Law School and won a clerkship with Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a keen spotter of young legal talent and a patriarch of the network of conservative lawyers who have occupied key positions throughout the Bush administration.

By then, Mr. Yoo already thought of himself as solidly conservative. He had grown up with anticommunist parents who left their native South Korea for Philadelphia shortly after Mr. Yoo was born in 1967, and had honed his political views while an undergraduate at Harvard.

From the chambers of Judge Silberman, Mr. Yoo moved on to a clerkship with Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, stopping briefly at Berkeley. Justice Thomas helped place him with Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, as general counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Along the way, Mr. Yoo passed up a chance to work in the Washington office of the law firm Jones Day, where he caught the eye of a senior partner, Timothy E. Flanigan. After five years that Mr. Yoo spent at Berkeley, writing on legal aspects of foreign affairs, war powers and presidential authority, the two men met up again when Mr. Yoo joined the Bush campaign's legal team, where Mr. Flanigan was a key lieutenant.

Mr. Flanigan became the deputy White House counsel under Alberto R. Gonzales. Mr. Yoo ended up as a deputy in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, or the O.L.C., a small unit of lawyers that advises the executive branch on constitutional questions and on the legality of complex or disputed policy issues.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, Mr. Yoo -- the only deputy with much expertise on foreign policy and war powers -- began dealing with the White House and other agencies more directly than he might have otherwise.

Mr. Flanigan, who had led the legal counsel office himself at the end of the first Bush administration, was acutely aware of its role in providing a legal grounding for the kinds of policy decisions the White House faced. He called over for advice soon after the World Trade Center towers fell.

"John Yoo, given his academic background and interests, was sort of the go-to guy on foreign affairs and military power issues," Mr. Flanigan said in an interview, referring to the legal counsel office staff. "He was the one that Gonzales and I went to to get advice on those issues on 9/11, and it just continued."

The torrent of opinions that Mr. Yoo churned out in the months that followed was striking, notwithstanding the research and writing assistance he had from lawyers on the office staff. Although only a portion of those documents have become public, copies of some still-confidential memorandums reviewed by the New York Times give a flavor of their sweeping language.

On Sept. 20, Mr. Yoo wrote to Mr. Flanigan about the president's constitutional authority to conduct military operations against terrorists and nations that support them. He noted that two Congressional resolutions recognized the president's authority to use force in such circumstances.

"Neither, however, can place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing and nature of the response," he wrote. Similar language concludes a memo written by Mr. Yoo on Sept. 25, only a week after Congress authorized President Bush to use military force against Al Qaeda and its supporters.

"One concern that people have raised is that John had a lot of these views going into the government and was perhaps overeager to write them," said Curtis A. Bradley, a law professor at Duke University who, like Mr. Yoo, has written skeptically about the import of international law. "In terms of war powers, you won't find a tremendous number of scholars who will go as far as he does."

Mr. Yoo's belief in the wide inherent powers of the president as commander in chief was strongly shared by one of the most influential legal voices in the administration's policy debates on terrorism, David S. Addington, then the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney. Documents and interviews suggest that those views have been part of the legal arguments underpinning not only coercive interrogation and the prosecution of terrorism suspects before military tribunals but also the eavesdropping program.

Some current and former officials said the urgency of events after Sept. 11 and the close ties that Mr. Yoo developed with Mr. Addington (who is now Mr. Cheney's chief of staff), Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Flanigan and the general counsel of the Defense Department, William J. Haynes II, had sometimes led him to bypass the elaborate clearance process to which opinions from the legal counsel office were normally subjected.

Mr. Yoo's January 2002 conclusions that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan and that the conventions' minimum standards did not cover terrorists touched off a long, hard-fought battle within the administration, in which lawyers for the State Department and the military services strongly disputed his views. Thereafter, several senior officials said, those lawyers were sometimes excluded from the drafting of more delicate opinions.

For example, they said, Mr. Yoo's much-criticized 2002 memorandum with Mr. Bybee on interrogations -- which said that United States law prohibited only methods that would cause "lasting psychological harm" or pain "akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure" -- was not shared with either State Department or military lawyers, despite its implications for their agencies.

"They were not getting enough critical feedback from within O.L.C., or from within the Justice Department, or from other agencies," one former official said of Mr. Yoo's opinions. Officials said senior aides to Attorney General Ashcroft also complained that they were not adequately informed about some of the Mr. Yoo's frequent discussions with the White House.

Mr. Yoo said he had always duly notified Justice Department officials or other agencies about the opinions he provided except when "I was told by people very high in the government not to for classification reasons."

Yesterday, with controversy brewing again about some of the policies on which Mr. Yoo worked, he said he was unmoved.

"If you're being criticized for what you did and you believe that what you did was right, you shouldn't take it lying down," he said. "You should go out and defend yourself."


By Madeleine Lee

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
December 23, 2005

Ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the name of John C. Yoo has been in the news.

That's because Yoo has a plan for saving the United States Constitution by destroying it. And the plan is not John C. Yoo's alone. It is the doctrine of the Federalist Society, a right-wing legal group.

The essence of the plan: the expansion of the commander-in-chief power in the context of the war on terrorism to the exclusion of the counterbalancing checks and balances of the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Under this doctrine, as we have seen, every crime can be legalized, and human rights have no meaning.

Below are some of the pieces posted on the UFPPC web site in which Yoo and the Federalist Society have figured.


N.Y. Times, May 21, 2004: On how the Bush administration "confidentially" plotted to devise ostensibly legal ways to flout the human rights of its future victims. The memos described here -- which the State Dept. protested, but mostly in vain -- were about "setting the conditions" for the abuse of the very concept of human rights: Way stations on the road to Abu Ghraib.

Associated Press, May 22, 2004, with links to text of memos: When repression comes to the United States, it will arrive flying the flag and singing the praises of freedom and the United States Constitution. The 42-page memorandum that Prof. John C. Yoo of U.C. Berkeley's Boalt School of Law co-authored for the Department of Justice gives a good idea of what the legal opinions justifying the repression will look like. In the hands of the Bush administration Department of Justice, even the War Crimes Act of 1997 (18 U.S.C. ß 2441) can be turned from its purpose -- to outlaw crimes of war -- and become a license for torture by the C.I.A. and U.S. Armed Forces. All that's needed to accomplish this, according to legal experts at the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice like John Yoo: a "war on terrorism" and the belief that a person is a "member" of a "terrorist organization" or lives in a "failed state." -- Many at U.C. Berkeley's Boalt School of Law are outraged that a professor of constitutional and international law should have participated in framing these doctrines, and are circulating a petition demanding he recant or resign.

N.Y. Times, Oct. 24, 2004: In a fascinating and important two-part piece of investigative reporting, on Sunday and Monday the New York Times reported on its front pages how, in the aftermath of 9/11, a group of administration figures betrayed their oaths to "preserve, protect, and defend" the U.S. Constitution and instead set out, at first in great secrecy, to subvert it by creating a new system of "justice." -- Happily, the series also tells how, thanks to the efforts of many individuals (including, most notably and heroically, "the handful of scrappy military lawyers who had been appointed as defense counsel for the [Guantánamo] prisoners" -- a Hollywood movie should be made about them) the new policy fell apart. -- Apparently (and correctly) sensing at the inception of this process how their subversion of the Constitution would be viewed by others, those first involved in crafting the new system kept details secret even from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Colin Powell, the secretary of state. -- Congress was hardly thought of, much less consulted. -- As in the decision to torture prisoners, the name of John C. Yoo once again figures prominently. -- An award is in order for publishing this 12,000-word series, based in part on new documents that have been leaked to the Times. But Tim Golden is wrong to describe those involved as a "small core of conservative administration officials." -- The Times should not call officials "conservative" when they are bent on subverting the Constitution in the name of an alleged "commander in chief power" whose essence is a total contradiction of the fundamental principles of the founding document of this nation. Such individuals should be called what they are: radicals in the true sense of the world, whose radicalism was, and perhaps still is, a grave danger to the republic. -- (The Times is also remiss in not pointing out that the terrorists in the custody of the U.S. who could legitimately be charged with crimes are not merely "being held by the C.I.A." but are in fact being held in secret prisons in undisclosed locations [undisclosed even, it is said, to the president, who in this as in so many other matters, prefers not to know], where they have been and doubtless still are being illegally tortured -- a redundant but, sad to say, necessary expression. -- "[W]ith both the C.I.A. captives and more important Guantánamo detainees, interrogation was given priority over prosecution, officials said," Tim Golden writes, not pointing out that what this means is that punishment was preceding prosecution for an administration that considered itself empowered to be judge, jury, and executioner for whomsoever it designated an "enemy combatant.") -- If the information in this article is not considered ammunition for an effort to impeach the president and the vice president (Dick Cheney was "a driving force behind the policy," the Times reports), should they be reelected, then there is something rotten in the state of America. -- [Note, Dec. 23, 2005: It now appears that the New York Times was in possession at the time this article was published of the story about the Bush administration's program to circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and engage in wiretaps of U.S. citizens without warrant; John C. Yoo was also involved in the attempt to devise legal justifications for these programs.]

Secrecy News, Jan. 10, 2005: Messrs Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, and Haynes, as every reader of the torture policy documents knows, hold that the Article II, Section 2 power of the president as “Commander in Chief” authorizes him, in this era of an endless “war on terror,” to assert an unlimited executive power that can, in principle, be checked neither by the legislative nor by the judicial branches of the federal government, nor, indeed, by any authority here below.

New Yorker, Feb. 14, 2005: John C. Yoo figures prominently in this major article in the New Yorker covering "extraordinary renditions," which is the CIA’s program of using third countries to torture terrorists and suspected terrorists. -- Not only is the practice barbaric but it is of highly questionable value in obtaining reliable information. -- It has also produced a class of prisoners which the authorities dare not bring to trial and dare not release. -- The lack of the accuracy of information gained through torture is illustrated by Colin Powell’s use in his February 2003 U.N. speech of information gained from Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a captured head of one of al Qaeda’s training camps. -- "In his speech, Powell did not refer to Libi by name, but he announced to the world that ‘a senior terrorist operative’ who ‘was responsible for one of Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan’ had told U.S. authorities that Saddam Hussein had offered to train two Al Qaeda operatives in the use of 'chemical or biological weapons.’" -- "Last summer, Newsweek reported that Libi, who was eventually transferred from Egypt to Guantánamo Bay, was the source of the incendiary charge cited by Powell, and that he had recanted. By then, the first anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq had passed and the 9/11 Commission had declared that there was no known evidence of a working relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda." -- But then, this Administration hasn’t really demonstrated a desire for accurate information...


Washington Post, Jul. 4, 2004: With any luck, it will turn out to be true that recent events, including the Supreme Court decisions handed down on Jun. 28, 2004, and the repudiation of some secret Bush administration memos, constitute "a permanent rebuke of the expansive view of presidential power that has underpinned numerous Bush administration policies, including an executive order establishing military tribunals that are not subject to judicial review," as the Washington Post put it in a piece published on Independence Day. David B. Rivkin Jr., a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration, estimated that the view held by the Bush administration is supported by fewer than 1% of the nation's law professors. But the adminstration has favored legal figures who do, including memo drafters John Yoo and Jay Bybee, as well as Attorney John Ashcroft; such figures are often close to the Federalist Society, which the Post describes as "a conservative legal group formed to combat what its Web site calls 'orthodox liberal ideology' ".

Nation, Nov. 1, 2004: Links to the Christian Right, developed in a Nation review of Esther Kaplan's *With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House* (New Press, 2004), pointing out that "Screening by the American Bar Association of judicial nominees has been replaced by advice from the far-right Federalist Society," of which John C. Yoo is a long-time member.

Jim Lobe, Nov. 11, 2004: The Federalist Society is the dominant source of the ideas of Alberto Gonzales's legal team.

Summary of Adam Curtis's BBC Documentary, "The Power of NIghtmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear" (2004). Kenneth Starr is a member of the Federalist Society.