Mr. T — and that stands for torture — is coming to town. John Yoo, Professor of Law at Boalt Law School, will appear at this Thursday’s St. Thomas Law School symposium on “Presidential Powers: Prudence or Perversion?” Also appearing are Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar, University of Minnesota Law Professor Heidi Kitrosser, Professor David Schultz (Hamline), and St. Thomas Law Professors Delahunty and Paulsen. If they hold true to form, Yoo, Delanhunty and Paulsen will argue the case for expansive Presidential powers. This view holds that a President’s wartime powers can override any law, treaty, or “conflicting” Constitutional provision. One clear result of this position was widespread torture conducted in our names.
St. Thomas Law School Dean Thomas Mengler expects a robust debate. Here are some questions that Professor Yoo will not be asked.
l. Do you agree with federal judges, including the chief judge at the Guantanamo Military Commissions, inspectors general, Pentagon investigators, FBI interrogators, and every human rights organization that has looked at the matter, all of whom say people were tortured in U.S. custody? If so, will you join us in calling for investigations and, if necessary, prosecutions, as required by the Convention Against Torture, signed by President Reagan and ratified by the U.S. Senate?
2. Professor Yoo, is your statement that “You have to understand the times” antithetical to the institution, the very concept of law, whose purpose, at least in part, is to prevent and prohibit the victim of an offense, broadly speaking, from seeking vigilante justice?
3. Professor Yoo, did you delete or have any knowledge of the deletion of huge chunks, if not most, of your emails from your tenure at the Office of Legal Counsel? Is that a federal offense?
4. Professor Yoo, in advising the President that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, should you not have mentioned there were other laws and treaties governing some of the same conduct that did apply, including the Federal Torture Statute and the Convention Against Torture? If so, were you negligent, incompetent, or part of a criminal conspiracy to torture?
5. Professor Yoo, I know law professors like to discuss “hypotheticals.” So, hypothetically speaking, if a lawyer in the Justice Department consults with political people in the White House both before and during the writing of “legal” memos, and in fact changes those memos after getting “advice” from those political officials; if s/he defines torture so narrowly that his/her employer subsequently renounces that view of the law; if s/he knows or ought to know the definition of torture provided will be rejected by every court in the country; if his/her own employer subsequently says the memos exhibited poor judgment and a report that took four years to complete alleged s/he committed intentional professional misconduct; if s/he calls Youngstown Sheet and Tube, — which even virtually all conservative legal scholars regard as a seminal case on Presidential wartime powers — a labor law case and fails to mention it in memo after memo on wartime Presidential powers; might there be a prima facie case that this lawyer was involved in a conspiracy to commit torture?
6. How many Office of Legal Counsel memos have been renounced by the head of the Office of Legal Counsel during the same administration as when they were written?
7. How many Office of Legal Counsel lawyers has the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded have engaged in intentional professional misconduct?
8. How many Office of Legal Counsel lawyers has the Justice Department publicly criticized for poor judgment in their legal reasoning?
9. Would Boalt Law School — or any law journal of Boalt Law School — invite, all expenses paid, an outside speaker included among those lawyers listed in answers to #6, #7, and #8 above?
10. Given that at least seven foreign countries are investigating, if not prosecuting, those involved in what Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba called a Presidentially-authorized, U.S. “systematic regime of torture,” what are your travel plans?
The symposium runs from 10:00-4:00, Thursday, Oct. 7, St. Thomas Law School, 11th and LaSalle in downtown Minneapolis. Join us during the lunch hour (11:30-12:30) and during the reception after the program (4:00-5:00) in outdoors demonstrations in support of accountability for those who committed and who conspired to commit torture. If you want to see if any of these questions get asked or answered during the symposium, you must rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org.