Turley: Bush terror memos are 'very definition of tyranny'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday March 4, 2009

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Since the release on Monday of nine previously-secret Bush administration legal memos claiming that the president has the power to ignore the Constitution when fighting terrorism, experts have almost unanimously denounced both their legal reasoning and their conclusions.

"These memos provide the very definition of tyranny," Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday. "These memos include everything that a petty despot would want."

Turley believes, however, that there may be worse revelations yet to come. "These memos weren't written in a vacuum," he noted. "The question is what did they do in response? We know, among other things that they created a torture program. ... I think we're going to find out that this was the mere foundation for a greater edifice that has yet to be disclosed."

The Justice Department has already indicated that it is considering releasing additional Bush-era legal opinions.

Turley was also scathing in his criticism of John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who was responsible for many of the more extreme claims of executive power. "I still cannot believe that he would produce this type of work," Turley said in dismay. "It's really bad in terms of its legal analysis. ... It really does show, I think, the great tragedy of a very bright individual working very, very hard to satisfy the president and to hell him what he wanted to hear."

Turley, however, may be underestimating Yoo's influence. In 2007, journalist Charlie Savage noted that the Office of Legal Counsel had no head during the crucial weeks immediately after 9/11, leaving Yoo free to put his own ideas into effect.

"He was very conservative," Savage said of Yoo, "and he had made his name in academia by writing law journal articles and speaking at events in which he would take a very provocatively revisionist stance about the scope of executive power. ... However, when [Yoo] became the Office of Legal Counsel deputy in charge of the national security and foreign affairs portfolio and had no boss after 9/11, it allowed him to put these theories into pragmatic effect by writing secret advisory opinions that stated these theories as true, citing his own work from the '90s as authority for why they were true."

Turley concluded by reaffirming that he remains skeptical of the plan being promoted by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to create a "truth commission" to investigate Bush-era misdeeds. He told Olbermann, "It's up to the rest of us to say, if President Obama means it that no one is above the law, we need a special prosecutor and we need to investigate -- not another commission."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Mar. 3, 2009.

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