Lawyers group wants 'torture memo' author fired from Berkeley law school
Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday April 10, 2008

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A national lawyer's group is calling for former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo to be dismissed from his position at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School.

Yoo, who authored several controversial memos critics say authorized torture of suspected terrorists, is unfit to continue at the law school, know as Boalt Hall, according to the National Lawyers Guild.

"John Yoo's complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act," said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.

A press release from the Guild, which was founded in 1937 as a human rights bar organization, says Yoo's memos violate US law and establish an over-broad view of presidential powers.

New York. In a memorandum written the same month George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo said the Department of Justice would construe US criminal laws not to apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. According to Yoo, the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war.

The federal maiming statute, for example, makes it a crime for someone "with the intent to torture, maim, or disfigure" to "cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb or any member of another person." It further prohibits individuals from "throwing or pouring upon another person any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance" with like intent.

Yoo also narrowed the definition of torture so the victim must experience intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body functions will likely result; Yoo's definition contravenes the definition in the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the US has ratified which is thus part of the US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause. Yoo said self-defense or necessity could be used as a defense to war crimes prosecutions for torture, notwithstanding the Torture Convention's absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances, even in wartime. This memo and another Yoo wrote with Jay Bybee in August 2002 provided the basis for the Administration's torture of prisoners.

New Yoo memos were disclosed last week, including one that seemed to argue the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure of citizens, does not apply to "domestic military operations" overseen by the president.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has invited Yoo to testify about his preparation of the controversial memos.