Former U.S. Department of Justice attorney John Yoo is no stranger to protests. He’s responsible for drafting controversial memos under the Bush Administration to provide legal justification for torture, and as a result, anti-war activists have been following him around for years.
Turns out, Yoo also drafted legal opinions justifying the NSA’s surveillance program. The attorney and law professor will be the San Francisco Republican Party’s guest of honor tonight, at an event in North Beach.
Yoo will speak on “the recent revelations of the NSA's PRISM program, the status of Edward Snowden, outcomes of recent Supreme Court decisions, and any other interesting topics of the day,” according to the event announcement. Naturally, his talk will be a magnet for protesters, who plan to congregate outside Villa Taverna, the restaurant where he’ll be speaking.
Just how important a role did Yoo play in providing legal justification for the spying program? Here’s some insight from Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Barton Gellman, who was interviewed for a recent report on PBS NewsHour:
"Well, the brief history of [the spying program] is that it was invented largely by Vice President Dick Cheney and his lawyer David Addington, with the help of Mike Hayden, who was running the NSA. The Justice Department had secret opinions written by John Yoo, who's the same guy who wrote the torture opinions and some others that became quite controversial later.”
This bit of history hasn't escaped the notice of Bay Area anti-war activists with World Can’t Wait, who've turned out in the past at UC Berkeley, where Yoo teaches Constitutional law, to target him for his involvement in the torture memos. Yoo recently wrote that the NSA spying program “will not prove as bad as it first seems” and opined that it presents “no clear constitutional violations.”
World Can't Wait has also rallied behind NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “The people of the world want the U.S. to take its hands off Edward Snowden,” says World Can’t Wait spokesperson Linda Jacobs. “There is an enormous wellspring of public support for him.” Jacobs is rallying the troops to show up outside Yoo's talk tonight.
As illustrated by this screen shot from their website, Snowden obviously hit all the right notes for World Can’t Wait.
Yoo has sparked the ire of Snowden supporters. In an editorial for the National Review Online last month, he wrote, “Edward Snowden should go to jail, as quickly and for as long as possible.”
By the way, the hilarious response this provoked from Wonkette’s Alex Ruthrauff is totally worth a read:
“Remember all the fun we had debating whether torture was torture? Well, the good times don’t have to end, because everyone’s favorite unindicted war criminal John Yoo is back at National Review Online’s Treasury of Travesties “The Corner” to remind us all that John Yoo is a fucking disgrace. In this installment of 'John Yoo’s John Yoo Is A Fucking Disgrace Internet Column,' John Yoo informs us that we must “Prosecute Snowden.” A fascinating thesis that is arguably true! But will John Yoo make our heads explode by padding out his column with infuriating conflations and First Amendment hypocrisy? Ha, does the Pope wash lady feet?”
This article originally appeared on sfbg.com on July 10, 2013.