Former Deputy U.S. Attorney General John Yoo, who contributed to the PATRIOT Act, has advocated the legality of torture, and advised that enemy combatants can be denied protection under the Geneva Convention as a means of diminishing legal challenges regarding war crimes, wrote an op-ed piece in today's New York Times. From Glenn Greenwald's Sunday post at Unclaimed Territory:
Why is it even necessary to point out that the U.S. President does not have the power to violate laws which he thinks are "wrongheaded or obsolete," or that Presidents have no authority to disregard "wrongheaded or obsolete judicial decisions" (whatever that might mean)? And what permits a "law professor" to claim otherwise on the Op-Ed page of the NYT? Under this administration, there is no notion too radical or authoritarian to be off limits not only from being subject to debate, but from being implemented.At no time in recent memory has our very system of government been under more direct assault from within; Watergate pales in comparison. The fact that we have allowed the types of policies championed by John Yoo into the public discourse at all - and as ostensibly reasonable options - only illustrates the damage that has already been done.
Just look at the things we're debating -- whether the U.S. Government can abduct and indefinitely imprison U.S. citizens without charges; whether we can use torture to interrogate people; whether our Government can eavesdrop on our private conversations without warrants; whether we can create secret prisons and keep people there out of sight and beyond the reach of any law or oversight; and whether the President can simply disregard long-standing constitutional limitations and duly enacted Congressional laws because he has deemed that doing so is necessary to "protect" us.
These haven't been open questions for decades if not centuries. They've been settled as intrinsic values that define our country. Yet nothing is settled or resolved any longer. Everything -- even the most extremist and authoritarian policies and things which were long considered taboo -- are now openly entertained, justifiable and routinely justified.