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Bush legal adviser met with cries of 'war criminal' at debate
John Byrne
Published: Wednesday April 22, 2009


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John Yoo, one of the legal architects of the Bush Administration's "torture policies," was met with outrage at a talk given at Chapman University in California Tuesday, where he reportedly faced cries of "war criminal" as he approached the stage.

As he neared the podium to speak, he was met with shouts of "war criminal," the local newspaper said. An audience member shouted, "He doesn't belong in the university he belongs in jail."

The former Bush legal adviser seemed immune to the haranguing.

According to the Orange County Register, "Yoo responded with a slight smile."

"Maybe you all should conduct the debate," he quipped. "I'll write questions on cards and hand them in."

Yoo worked at the Bush Administration's White House Office of Legal Counsel, which authored the recently released CIA torture memos that outlined the methods interrogators could use when questioning suspects. He was participating in a debate with other professors over the "harsh interrogation" practices the Bush team approved.

In his talk, he defended the Administration's use of waterboarding, a technique in which detainees were partially drowned.

"Three thousand of our fellow citizens had been killed in a deliberate attack by a foreign enemy," he told a crowd at Chapman University. "That forced us in the government to have to consider measures to gain information using presidential constitutional provisions to protect the country from further attack."

Chapman law professor Katharine Darmer seemed troubled by Yoo's defense. She asked him why it was necessary to waterboard two suspects -- including the alleged architect of the 9/11 attack -- 266 times.

"How effective is a tactic you have to use 266 times? We are lawyers," Darmer said. "Our job is to follow the law. Torture is illegal and it's also wrong."

Yoo replied: "What I hear from Prof. Darmer and Prof. Rosenthal is that they would, in the same circumstance, rule out any form of coercive interrogation no matter who we help including and up to Osama bin Laden no matter what the circumstances."

"Was it worth it?" he added. "We haven't had an attack in more than seven years. Fifty percent of the information that we have on al Qaeda and its workings came from interrogation."

More details of the debate are available here.


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