Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Newly released emails show that Judge Brett Kavanaugh pushed to make John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration's torture memos, a federal judge. (Photo: The Commonwealth Club/Flickr/cc)

Email Marked 'Confidential' by GOP Shows Kavanaugh Pushed for John Yoo, Legal Architect of Bush Torture Program, to Be a Federal Judge

Trump nominee for U.S. Supreme Court believed author of notorious memos providing legal cover for those torturing human beings would be great as lifetime pick for Ninth Circuit

Julia Conley

Included in the Judge Brett Kavanaugh-related documents the Senate Judiciary Committee strived to keep hidden from the public this week by marking them "committee confidential" are a series of emails in which the U.S. Supreme Court nominee pushed to make one of the country's biggest proponents of torture a federal judge.

Emails released by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in defiance of the committee's Republicans showed Kavanaugh calling John Yoo, the lawyer who authored many of the George W. Bush administration's torture memos, his "magic bullet" and his choice for a vacant seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kavanaugh first sent an email saying he wanted Yoo on the appeals court in November 2001. Upon learning that the attorney was more interested in a job as the CIA's general counsel, Kavanaugh suggested he work in that position for a year before serving as a judge.

The conversations regarding Yoo's future representing the CIA in legal matters and judging cases in the nation's largest appeals court were taking place as he was authoring the torture memos.

The memos flew in the face of the United Nations' Convention Against Torture and served as United States' justification for illegally ignoring the conventions as it tortured detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons.

As Ian Millhiser notes at ThinkProgress, "Yoo's torture memos are widely viewed as one of the worst examples of legal malpractice in American history."

The memos claimed that the conventions did not apply to detainees held by the U.S. in the war in Afghanistan. One key memo written by Yoo claimed that a detainee should not be considered to be suffering "severe pain" during torture unless the pain was equivalent to the kind "that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant bodily function would likely result."

Historian Andy Worthington wrote at Common Dreams earlier this year about the memos' enduring impact on Americans' views about torture:

As Donald Trump took office, 48 percent of Americans said that "there are some circumstances under which the use of torture is acceptable in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts." Encouragingly, 49 percent disagreed, but it remains, I believe, a sign of the enduring power of the Bush administration's bellicose pro-torture maneuverings in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that torture remains so popular, just as, with Guantánamo, the dark propaganda of the prison’s early days—as a place which, allegedly held "the worst of the worst"— has proven alarmingly durable, despite relentless efforts by campaigners, myself included, to demonstrate its almost complete groundlessness.

Yoo has returned the favor to Kavanaugh recently, pushing for his confirmation in an editorial for Fox News and an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. 

The emails showing Kavanaugh's support of Yoo surfaced shortly after Democrats argued that he also supported the use of torture during his time in the Bush administration.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·


Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·


Ginni Thomas Pressed Arizona Lawmakers to Reverse Biden's 2020 Win: Report

"Clarence Thomas' continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics," said one observer. "He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo