Yoo Brings History of Inconsistency and Hypocrisy to 'Inquirer'

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brandon Hersh (202) 471-3205 bhersh@mediamatters.org

Erikka Knuti (202) 756-4135 eknuti@mediamatters.org

Yoo Brings History of Inconsistency and Hypocrisy to 'Inquirer'

WASHINGTON - Today, Media Matters for America responded to Philadelphia Inquirer editorial page
editor Harold Jackson's reported justification for hiring University of
California-Berkeley law professor and former-Bush Justice Department lawyer
John Yoo as a regular columnist. Jackson
defended the decision, saying, among other things that "[o]ur readers have been able
to get directly from Mr. Yoo his thoughts on a number of subjects concerning
law and the courts." But, as Media
Matters
has documented, in previous work for the Inquirer and other publications, readers
have not received clear and consistent explications of Yoo's
"thoughts" on key legal and judicial issues. Among other things,
Yoo has misrepresented the Bush administration's position on the
constitutional limits of its authority regarding detainee treatment and
interrogation and hypocritically criticized President Obama for endorsing
qualities in judicial nominees that Yoo himself praised in Justice Clarence
Thomas.

Media
Matters
President Eric Burns
said of Yoo's hiring: "Mr. Yoo
engaged in morally and possibly legally reprehensible behavior during the Bush
administration but his behavior as a columnist has not been much better. Yoo
has repeatedly and unapologetically provided his readers with inconsistent,
unreliable information."

Burns added: "In a time when newspaper space is a precious
commodity, it is troubling that Mr. Jackson gave that space to a columnist with
a history of misinforming the public."

BACKGROUND

As Media Matters documented, Yoo has a
history -- in his writing for the Inquirer
and elsewhere -- of inconsistency and hypocrisy:

Inconsistency
on whether torture is prohibited by federal law

In his
May 29, 2004, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Yoo wrote that
"interrogations of detainees captured in the war on terrorism are not
regulated under Geneva.
This is not to condone torture, which," he then asserted, "is still
prohibited by the Torture Convention and federal criminal law."

However,
in a March 14, 2003, memo to
William Haynes, Yoo wrote
that "[i]n our view, Congress may no more regulate the President's ability
to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to
direct troop movements on the battlefield." He thus concluded, "[W]e
will construe potentially applicable criminal laws ... not to apply to the
President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants pursuant to his
Commander-in-Chief authority."

Similarly,
an August 1, 2002, memo -- reportedly
written "primarily" by Yoo -- on "Standards of Conduct for
Interrogation" under the federal torture statute stated that the
prohibitions of federal law did not apply to interrogations authorized by the
president as part of the war against Al Qaeda because "Congress may no
more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy
combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the
battlefield."

Inconsistency
on the legal status of Afghanistan

In the Journal op-ed, Yoo made statements about
the legal status of Afghanistan
that contradicted what he wrote in a Justice Department memo about why Taliban
detainees were not entitled to prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva
Conventions. In the op-ed, Yoo wrote: "While Taliban fighters had an
initial claim to protection under the [Geneva]
Conventions (since Afghanistan
signed the treaties), they lost POW status by failing to obey the standards of
conduct for legal combatants: wearing uniforms, a responsible command
structure, and obeying the laws of war."

But in a
January 9, 2002, draft memo to
Haynes about the "Application of Treaties and Laws to al Qaeda and Taliban
detainees," Yoo had a different view of Afghanistan's status as a party to
the Geneva Conventions. He wrote: "Afghanistan was without the
attributes of statehood necessary to continue as a party to the Geneva
Conventions, and the Taliban militia, like al Qaeda, is therefore not entitled
to the protections of the Geneva Conventions." Harvard Law professor Jack
Goldsmith, the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel
from late 2003 to 2004, wrote in his book, The
Terror Presidency
, that there was a "very sharp internal
dispute over the reasons for" concluding that the Taliban and Al Qaeda
detainees were presumptively not POWs under the Geneva Conventions. In that
dispute, Goldsmith wrote, "Yoo floated the idea that the Taliban did not
receive POW protections because Afghanistan
was a failed state and thus did not deserve the protections of the Geneva
Conventions at all."

Hypocrisy
on judges showing empathy

Yoo has also made inconsistent, hypocritical statements on the issue of
judges showing empathy. In his May 10 Inquirer
column,
Yoo denounced Obama's stated intention to nominate a Supreme Court justice who
demonstrates the quality of empathy. But in a
review
of Thomas' 2007 memoir, My
Grandfather's Son
-- in which Yoo praised Thomas' "unique,
powerful intellect" and commitment to "the principle that the
Constitution today means what the Framers thought it meant" -- Yoo touted
the unique perspective that he said Thomas brings to the bench. Yoo wrote that
Thomas "is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience
than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him" and argued
that Thomas' work on the court has been influenced by his understanding of the
less fortunate acquired through personal experience.

For
more information on Yoo, please see:

In 2004 WSJ op-ed, Yoo made claims at odds with
his Justice Department memos

Is Philly Inquirer also OK with Yoo's hypocrisy?

John Yoo is a lousy columnist,
too.

###

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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