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The Guardian/UK

Former Bush Administration Lawyer Asked to Testify Before Congress

Elana Schor

The Bush administration lawyer who provided a legal basis for the brutal interrogation tactics used by the US military and CIA was called to account today by congressional Democrats.

John Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, was asked to appear before the judiciary committee in the House of Representatives on May 6 to discuss the legal grounds for the harsh treatment of al-Qaida suspects.

"The judiciary committee will look at the legal basis for actions taken before and during the war and whether we need to write stronger laws to prevent a future imperial presidency from steamrolling Congress and the American people," the Democratic congressman who chairs the panel, John Conyers, said.

Yoo previously told Conyers' aides he was reluctant to testify publicly about the legal briefs he wrote for the Bush administration, the congressman said in a letter to his prospective witness.

But Conyers reminded Yoo that he has already given an extensive on-record interview to Esquire magazine for a profile to be published next month.

"Overall you have made such extensive public comments on these and related matters, it is difficult to understand why you would continue to decline to present your views to the committee," Conyers wrote to Yoo.

Yoo left the office of legal counsel, where he gave legal advice to the Bush administration, in 2003. Earlier that year, he drafted an 81-page memo giving the Pentagon extensive leeway to harm detainees during interrogations without fear of legal consequences.

That memo, which the administration later revoked, was made public for the first time last week and caused a stir among liberals in Congress.

In one section, for example, Yoo said US interrogators could maim detainees without fear of prosecution, depending on the body part that was injured and whether intent to harm existed.

"Just because the statute says -- that doesn't mean you have to do it," Yoo told Esquire last week. "You're right, there's still the moral question -- after you've answered the legal question -- whether you should do it at all."

© 2008 The Guardian

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