Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DOJ Releases More Controversial Opinions Penned by John Yoo

The Department of Justice has released nine legal opinions that were previously kept secret under the Bush Administration. A few of these memos were written by John Yoo, now infamous for writing the "torture memos", and are a very interesting look into the type of expanded power that the Bush Administration was interested in pursuing.

In a memo dated October 23, 2001, Yoo (along with Alberto Gonzales and William Haynes) argue:

"We do not think a military commander carrying out a raid on a terrorist cell would be required to demonstrate probable cause or to obtain a warrant...we think that the better view is that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to domestic military operations designed to deter and prevent future terrorist attacks."

Yoo also made comments on the President's power to suspend elements of the First Amendment during times of war:

"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully...the current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."

These revelations are further documentation of the Bush Administration's attempt to find legal justification for vastly expanding the role of the President, even if it meant suspending or taking action that did not align with the Constitution. Scott Horton writes:

John Yoo’s Constitution is unlike any other I have ever seen. It seems to consist of one clause: appointing the President as commander-in-chief. The rest of the Constitution was apparently printed in disappearing ink.
We need to know how the memo was used. Bradbury suggests it was not much relied upon; I don’t believe that for a second. Moreover Bradbury’s decision to wait to the very end before repealing it suggests that someone in the Bush hierarchy was keen on having it.
It’s pretty clear that it served several purposes. Clearly it was designed to authorize sweeping warrantless surveillance by military agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Using special new surveillance programs that required the collaboration of telecommunications and Internet service providers, these agencies were sweeping through the emails, IMs, faxes, and phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. Clearly such unlawful surveillance occurred. But the language of the memos suggest that much more was afoot, including the deployment of military units and military police powers on American soil. These memos suggest that John Yoo found a way to treat the
Posse Comitatus Act as suspended.

We do not simply need a "Truth Commission" but it is becoming clearer by the day that we need criminal investigations to get to the bottom of this and hold Bush Administration officials accountable. More on this to come.

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