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article imageOPR Report: Yoo Said President could Order Civilians Massacred

By Bill Lindner     Feb 24, 2010 in Politics
A recently released OPR report reveals that Justice Lawyer John Yoo who authored the Bush administration's torture memo said the President's war-making authority is so broad that he could order a village to be massacred
A recently released report from the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) revealed that former Justice lawyer John Yoo, author of the Bush administration's 'torture memo' reportedly told Justice Department investigators that the President's war-making authority was so broad that he had the Constitutional power to order a village to be 'massacred.'
Last year Yoo's views prompted the Justice Department's internal watchdog to conclude that Yoo committed 'intentional professional misconduct' because his views were so extreme and lacked legal precedents when he advised the CIA that it could waterboard and use other harsh interrogation techniques on Al Qaeda suspects.
That report concluded that Yoo, now a Berkeley law professor, and Jay Bybee, Yoo's boss at the time, who is now a federal judge after being appointed by President George W. Bush, should be referred to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary actions. That was then, this is now.
The final OPR report, reviewed by David Margolis, another senior Justice Department lawyer, reportedly overruled the original findings on the grounds that there was no clear and 'unambiguous' standard by which OPR was judging the lawyers. Margolis' sudden change of heart found that Yoo and Bybee were only guilty of 'poor judgment,' saving them from facing criminal charges and/or disbarment from their state bar associations.
Yoo Viewed the President's Powers as Essentially Unlimited
The OPR's report took more than four years to complete. It reveals new details into the small group of lawyers at the Justice Department, the CIA, and Bush's White House who crafted the legal arguments giving the green light to some of the most controversial tactics used by the Bush administration in its war on terror.
The report also reveals that Bush administration officials were so worried that CIA officers could be criminally prosecuted for torture that one senior official -- Attorney General John Ashcroft -- suggested that President Bush issue 'advance pardons' to those who engaged in the water boarding. Ashcroft was informed that issuing 'advance pardons' was not possible.
Yoo's views that the President's wartime powers were essentially unlimited, and included the authority to override laws passed by Congress -- such as a statute that banned the use of torture -- were strongly backed by David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's legal counsel.
Twice Yoo answered affirmatively when asked by OPR investigators if ordering a village of resistances being massacred was a power the president could legally use according to partial transcripts included in the OPR report.
The CIA Wanted Immunity for Torturing Suspected Terrorists
Yoo's August 1, 2002 torture memo narrowly defined torture and added sections, concluding that, in the end, it didn't matter what the fine print of Congressionally passed law said. Yoo reportedly concluded that the President's authority superseded the law and CIA officers who might later be accused of torture could also argue that they were acting in 'self defense' in order to save American lives.
Yoo's torture memo was derived from concerns by John Rizzo, the CIA's general counsel, that CIA officers might be criminally prosecuted if they used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics in their interrogation of Abu Zubayday, an alleged high-level Al Qaeda operative who was captured in Pakistan and transferred to a CIA 'black site' prison in Thailand in the spring of 2002.
Rizzo wanted the Justice Department to provide immunity for any action engaged in by CIA officers. Yoo's memo was actively reviewed with senior officials in the Bush's White House. An email quoted in the OPR report notes that Yoo wrote "Let's plan on going over [to the White House] at 3:30 to see some other folks about the bad things opinion" on July 12, 2002.
Two Meetings at the White House to Discuss the Opinion in the Torture Memo
OPR's report describes two meetings at the White House with then-chief counsel Alberto Gonzales and 'possibly Addington' who refused to talk to OPR investigators but testified before Congress that he did have at least one meeting with Yoo in the summer of 2002 to discuss the opinion in the torture memo.
On July 16, 2002, after the second meeting at the White House, Yoo began writing sections in the memo that included controversial views of the President's powers as Commander in chief.
Patrick Philbin, one of Yoo's associates, questioned the inclusion of those sections and suggested that it be removed. Yoo replied "they want it in there" according to a statement given by Philbin to OPR investigators. Philbin didn't know who the 'they' was, but assumed it was whoever it was that requested the opinion.
Technically, as noted by News Week, it was the CIA that wanted that section in there, but, as the OPR report makes quite clear, Bush's White House was also pressing for it. Yoo extensively provided comments to OPR defending his views and disputing OPR's take that he slanted them to accommodate the White House, but did not respond to News Week's request for comment.
More about John yoo, Justice department, Opr, Jay bybee, John rizzo
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