John Yoo

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While serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo was the principal author of the August 2002 Torture Memo which backed a view of Presidential power unprecedented in U.S. history in which the President is above the law. He is reported to gave generated large numbers of still secret legal memoranda that have helped undermine American adherence to the rule of law. He is one of the great disgraces to the legal profession in modern times.

Born in 1967, Yoo immigrated from South Korea to the United States as a child with his parents. They indoctrinated him in conservative anti-communism. He attended Harvard University as an undergrad and graduated from Yale Law School in 1992. He appears to have learned early on that one succeeds by telling the powerful what they want to hear.

  • Former clerk to the Supreme Court's intellectual underachiever Justice Clarence Thomas from 1994-1995, who helped place him as general counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee under Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. He also worked in the law office of Jones Day.
  • Various Summer positions at Covington & Burling (1991), Skadden, Arps, (1991), Dechert, Price & Rhoads (1990), White House Counsel (1990), Wall St. Journal (1989) and the Boston Globe (1988).
  • While a law professor at UC Berkeley, was the beneficiary of John M. Olin Faculty Fellowship grants totaling $114,167 from 1998-99.

Post 9/11

Yoo wrote an internal memo urging that the executive use "electronic surveillance techniques and equipment that are more powerful and sophisticated than those available to law enforcement agencies in order to intercept telephonic communications and observe the movement of persons but without obtaining warrants for such use." (Risen 1, p. 57) He gave de facto recognition to the evasive nature of the policy with regard to constitutional issues when he said, "The government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled times could be seen as infringements of individual liberties." (Risen 1, p. 58)

On FISA and Warrantless Wiretapping

On December 9, 2003, John Yoo co-wrote an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal praising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Patriot Act:

'The Patriot Act's most controversial provisions concern electronic surveillance of individuals who threaten national security. But the act did not initiate this practice. The system of secret search and wiretap warrants, granted in a secret hearing by a group of federal judges, without notice to the target, was established 25 years ago by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.'

'FISA was passed because before 1978 authorities could conduct searches to stop threats to national security without any judicial warrants at all. No court has ever found FISA to be unconstitutional, and just last year a special panel of federal appeals court judges reviewed the Patriot Act's central modificationof FISA and unanimously found it constitutional.'

We now know that the NSA had been violating these laws for more than 2 years when this article was written, and that its justifications for breaking the law were provided by John Yoo in a classified legal opinion.

Some Non-Secret Writings

  • "Politics as Laws?: The ABM Treaty, the Separation of Powers, and Treaty Interpretation." 89 Cal. L. Rev.. 851-915 (2001).
  • "The Puzzling Persistence of Process-Based Federalism Theories,." 79 Tex. L. Rev.. 1459-1523 (2001) (Sai Prakash, coauthor).
  • "Laws as Treaties?: The Constitutionality of the Congressional-Executive Agreement." 99 Mich. L. Rev.. 757-852 (2001).
  • "Kosovo, War Powers, and the Multilateral Future." 148 U. Pa. L. Rev.. 1673-1731 (2000).
  • "Treaties and Public Lawmaking: A Textual and Structural Defense of Non-Self-Execution." 99 Colum. L. Rev., 2210-2252 (1999).
  • "Globalism and the Constitution: Treaties, Legislative Power, and the Original Understanding." 99 Colum. L. Rev.. 1955-2100 (1999).
  • "The New Sovereignty and the Old Constitution: The Chemical Weapons Convention and the Appointments Clause." 15 Constitutional Commentary. 87-130 (1998).
  • "The Continuation of Politics by Other Means: The Original Understanding of War Powers." 84 Cal. L. Rev.. 167-305 (1996).
  • "Dollar Diplomacy/Dollar Defense: The Fabric of Economics and National Security Law." 26 Int'l Law. 715 (1992) (Harold Koh, co-author).
  • Op-ed article in the Wall Stree Journal, date and title unknown. Attacked a straw man, saying that nothing could be further from the truth than statements to the effect that intelligence agents could nab U.S. citizens at will.


  • John Yoo -- then and now, by Glenn Greenwald,, July 24, 2007. A comparison of Yoo's statements on executive privelege and wiretapping during the Clinton and Bush administrations.
  • Tim Golden. "Untested Aide Laid legal Basis For White House Terror Policies." The New York Times. December 23, 2005. Pp. A1, A18.
  • Panic and the Patriot Act BY ERIC POSNER AND JOHN YOO for the Wall St. Journal
  • James Risen, State of War, discusses Yoo on pp. 57-59.


External Links

  • John Yoo
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