John Yoo: soft-spoken but never shy. That’s the gist of this piece in the WaPo today.
The tenured Berkeley law professor and former Justice Department lawyer, who authored memos sanctioning the waterboarding of terrorism suspects and wiretapping of American citizens, hasn’t wilted in the face of protests, withering criticism of his judgment and a pending ethics investigation. And as we reported here, he parted ways with the Justice Department earlier this month, after a federal judge refused to toss out a former detainee’s lawsuit accusing Yoo of violating his constitutional rights.
Still, there’s no cramping Yoo’s style.
From the WaPo:
While former colleagues have avoided attention in the face of such scrutiny, Yoo has been traveling across the country to give speeches and counter critics who dispute his bold view of the president’s authority. Now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, he engages in polite but firm exchanges with legal scholars over conclusions in their academic work. This month, he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal defending his actions and labeling critics’ arguments as “absurd” and “foolhardy” responses to “the media-stoked politics of recrimination.”
Yoo’s expansive view of executive power, memorialized in his scholarship and in the Office of Legal Counsel memos for which he is now infamous, took hold even before his stints as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, according to the newspaper.
The Bush administration, seeking to adopt a more centralized approach to power, embraced Yoo — so much so, the White House dealt with him directly on several issues, to the chagrin of his superiors. The back-door communications eventually cost him his shot at running the OLC, and he left for Berkeley.
Despite protesters who have picketed the Berkeley campus and petitioned school leaders for his ouster, he appears unfazed. And why not? What can anyone do to John Yoo? Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has said he will not seek to prosecute the lawyers who authored the memos, and even if the Justice Department’s internal watchdog finds that Yoo fell short of professional standards, the five-year statute of limitations for allegations of attorney misconduct in Pennsylvania, where Yoo is licensed to practice law, has expired.
The criticism has strained his relationships with some former colleagues, according to the WaPo, but he and his wife, Elsa, the daughter of former CNN newsman Peter Arnett, still hang out with friends on the West Coast. And he writes a regular column for his hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, called “Closing Arguments.”
And he has supporters among his peers at Berkeley:
Jesse Choper, a Berkeley colleague of Yoo’s, said he thinks “very highly” of his scholarship, even if they disagree on some issues. “This is not a person who goes around raging or screaming at people — quite the opposite,” Choper said.
The WaPo points out that Yoo’s face-forward style contrasts his former Justice Department colleagues also under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility. Jay Bybee, who led the office while Yoo was there and is now a federal appeals judge in California, has told students and colleagues that he has some regrets about the memos. Steven Bradbury, the last to run the office during the Bush administration, has made himself scarce. He joined Dechert as a partner last week. Read about it here.