John Yoo, the former Office of Legal Counsel deputy who wrote the so-called “torture memos,” appeared at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday to discuss his new book about executive power, “Crisis and Command.” He said in some areas, President Barack Obama has gone beyond George W. Bush when it comes to the use of executive power.
Yoo pointed towards the Obama administration’s increased use of predator drones overseas as an example.
“If we were still in peacetime, and this were the criminal justice system, police are not allowed to shoot missiles at people who might be criminals, might be about to commit a criminal act or might have committed a criminal act, even if we have a hard time finding and arresting them,” said Yoo, adding that this is one area where Obama has gone beyond Bush.
Because terrorists do not wear uniforms or have territories figuring out how to target them is much more difficult, Yoo said. “It’s a complicated process that we had not had to think about before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a war.”
Yoo called AEI his “home away from home when I get a chance to get outside the People’s Republic of Berkeley,” where he works as a law professor. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the location of Yoo’s classes is not listed on the school’s Web site due to concerns it might be disrupted.
He joked that his appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart was the first time he’s done anything his students have cared about. Yoo’s students sent him several e-mails about Stewart’s height.
“Yes, I am in fact taller than Jon Stewart,” said Yoo.
Appearing with Yoo for the panel discussion were AEI’s Norman J. Ornstein, George Washington University Law School professor Jeffrey Rosen and Terry Eastland of the Weekly Standard.
In his presentation, Yoo said the decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the man who allegedly tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in civilian court are examples that President Barack Obama did not want to exercise his military powers by deferring the decision to the court system.
He said he was encouraged by the tone Obama struck in his speeches on the war in Afghanistan and his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.
In response to an audience question, Yoo said that the historic examples of United States prosecuting foreign soldiers for waterboarding were cases in which “what happened goes so far beyond what the Bush administration considered and did in a very discrete small number of cases, and I don’t actually think that’s much of a comparison.” Yoo said that if you look at the records, those examples go “way beyond anybody’s definition of what constitutes a violation of the ban on torture.”
Two videos of Yoo’s appearance are embedded below.