The Thing With Obama is Yoo Get Away With Murder

By Kevin Gosztola
President Barack Obama may have come into office pledging to end torture, but Obama has shown no indication that he will condemn the Nuremberg defense (“only following orders”) when used by former members of the Bush Administration who have been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
ABC News reported last week that Obama is defending John Yoo, a lawyer who wrote the “torture memo” for the Bush Administration, in California federal court against suit being brought by Jose
Padilla, who claims that “Yoo’s memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture.”
The Obama Justice Department claims that “recourse” is “for the executive to decide, in the first instance, and for Congress to decide," in the second instance. The courts should have no role, and since the Congress did not impeach prior to Bush leaving office, Congress should probably engage in little "recourse" also.

Obama’s Justice Department similarly adopted the Bush "state secrets" argument prior to defending Yoo when it asked the court “to dismiss a case against a flight data company that aided the CIA in performing alleged acts of extraordinary rendition.”
While Obama’s Justice Department agrees to assist in the legal defense of Yoo, so-called anti-terror memos released last week show the Bush Administration had people like Yoo develop legal justification for prosecuting the “war on terror” and “ignoring the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press and Fourth Amendment requirements for search warrants.” [See Jason Leopold’s article for more.]
The memos offered justification for the domestic deployment of military and granted the unitary executive the power to label any person an “enemy combatant” if deemed necessary even if the accused could prove he or she was not an “enemy combatant” by showing proper identification.
A poll in February indicated that “62 percent of Americans favor a criminal investigation or an independent panel to look into the use of torture, illegal wiretapping, and other alleged abuses of power by the Bush administration.”
In response to Obama’s lofty behavior toward accountability, citizens are organizing grassroots campaigns which will lead to consequences for those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those who supported policies of torture will be brought to justice if citizens of America are granted the power to decide.
 The “Fire John Yoo!” Campaign

Speaking to the issue of John Yoo’s memos, which provide the legal justification for torture, Linda Rigas, a student/organizer affiliated with the “Fire John Yoo!” campaign, offered insight on John Yoo and how a group of activists from the World Can’t Wait and other citizen groups are pressing for justice and consequences for the legal memos Yoo produced.
The “Fire John Yoo!” campaign began when it became evident that there was a need to actually confront John Yoo at Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley.
Rigas explained when Yoo decided to write memos for the Bush Administration he “left Boalt Hall to go work in the Office of Legal Counsel, which is the Supreme Court of the Executive Branch” which “makes the laws that the Executive then puts forth and brings to Congress for approval.”
Yoo returned to Boalt Hall to continue teaching UC Berkeley students classes on law.
“I think that John Yoo continuing to hold a place of legitimacy within an academic institution actually has really dangerous implications for the future of legality and for the future of how the Constitution will be read,” said Rigas.
Rigas continued believes the fact that Yoo has been able “to continue propagating and arguing his position under the unitary executive power is actually quite dangerous."
“This can already be seen with the fact that John Yoo doesn’t just lecture to Boalt Hall. He lectures to other law students throughout the country. Right now he’s a visiting professor at Chapman under a distinguished position,” said Rigas.
Sharon Adams, a lawyer affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) who operates out of California, supports NLG efforts to have John Yoo disbarred and would like to see Yoo fired from his job as a law professor and prosecuted. She’s sympathetic to the “Fire John Yoo!” campaign that activists are waging in San Francisco.
Adams happens to think the reason Yoo is a visiting professor at Chapman University this semester is because John Yoo was asked to get out of town because the protests were mounting up and Berkeley no longer wanted protests on the campus. She thinks the college advised him to “just quietly go to this conservative university and hopefully things [would] die down.”
According to Adams, Yoo was going to have a talk at Berkeley on March 12th that was postponed indefinitely, which shows that the group of activists applying pressure to John Yoo have a lot of grassroots power right now.
So, when did this “Fire John Yoo!” campaign start and what is it all about?
Rigas went to Berkeley last summer to work with the “Fire John Yoo!” campaign that had formed. She says the first big action it engaged in was at the 2008 Boalt Hall graduation.
“[Activists] had orange jumpsuits and posters and they really confronted the idea that people were graduating having gone through Yoo’s classes and were going to enter the profession of law. There were students who did not support the fact that their parents were going to have to walk through a group of people who were actually taking this on,” explained Rigas.
The campaign followed the action with a town hall meeting to discuss what it meant to have John Yoo teaching at Berkeley in the community. The group further organized and paid for a billboard to be put up that said “Silence + Torture = Complicity” and had the World Can’t Wait website listed below. And, months following the summer actions, as a result of the activists’ pressure on Yoo and Berkeley, the Berkeley City Council passed a nonbinding resolution dealing with John Yoo.
The campaign essentially centers around the fact that he was arguing for "law in the service of empire" and should not be allowed to hide from consequences by taking advantage of his status in an academic institution like UC Berkeley. 
Right now, activists from World Can’t Wait have created a model for taking action against accused war criminals that other citizens across the country could use to apply pressure for accountability and consequences for war crimes and crimes against humanity and most importantly, policies of torture like the ones Yoo created.
Stephanie Rugoff, project coordinator for War Criminals Watch, which is an organization being formed to track where accused war criminals have gone since they’ve left the Bush Regime
“We’re seeing where they are and what we hope to do by publicizing our website and reaching out to students in student organizations at universities where they go is to replicate the kind of organization that can be seen with Fire John Yoo at Berkeley,” said Rugoff.
As Rugoff sees it, what she and her organization plans to do is complementary to grassroots organizing going on throughout the country which is contributing to calls for a special prosecutor, a truth commission, etc.
Rugoff is “organizing people at a local level so that students can act at their local university” and contribute to a mass movement for accountability. Citizens are being empowered “to stand up against criminals who should have to face consequences for what they did.” 
Calls for prosecutions, truth commissions, and accountability have been met with an Obama Administration eager to convince Americans to “move forward” instead of looking back. Obama presents this attitude that as long as they stop the policies of torture accountability and consequences may not be necessary. 
Rigas addressed this attitude and approach and how closing Guantanamo does not guarantee torture will end.
“There are CIA black sites. Several people have speculated that extraordinary renditions will continue and that has been defined as a war crime and crime against humanity that can happen whether we had declared war or not. This keeps being put out as a most difficult legal question and that’s not true,” said Rigas.
Rigas added:
 “Obama is trying to take any position he can to repeal any authority that the Yoo memos were given by the Executive Branch of the Bush Regime. He can issue out all these executive orders and he can close Guantanamo but the reality is that torture will still continue and laws won’t be repealed.
Even if Obama puts himself under the auspices of his Executive Branch authority, that doesn’t mean that the law that was codified by John Yoo and by others in the Office of Legal Counsel is going to end. In fact, a continuation of the Bush Regime is going to continue the more and more entangled the United States continues to engage with other countries in really dangerous crimes against humanity. They should absolutely be held to account on the international level.
Obama is walking a political line and his political line is really dangerous for the interest and the needs of humanity.”
Sharon Adams is of the opinion that the scariest thing about all this is that the Bush Administration “had to go to the position of having it be a war in order to justify this extensive reach by the president,” in order to justify the policies which the Yoo memos legally justify.
Fortunately, there are citizens in America like Rigas, Adams, and Rugoff who are fighting against the whole justification for torture.
Adams said, “people really feel strongly about the issue of torture.” And they should.
Adams thinks, “The whole justification for torture is based on the idea that our safety, the safety of Americans [is of the utmost importance.] We are so important that it is necessary to torture innocent people just on the off chance that we might be able to protect really great Americans. And you know what? There is something fundamentally flawed with that, and you know what else is really gratifying is that a lot of Americans recognize that and they don’t want torture going on in their names to allegedly protect their safety.
I ask you to join and/or support the efforts of these women.
Along with whatever weekly peace vigils or tri-monthly rally/march you attend (or think you should be attending), consider hooking up with War Criminals Watch, the “Fire John Yoo!” campaign, World Can’t Wait, and any of the following, which have supported calls for a special prosecutor for Bush, Cheney, and other former members of the Bush Administration.
Center for Constitutional Rights
The National Lawyers Guild
After Downing Street
American Freedom Campaign
Ann Wright, retired US Army Reserve Colonel and US diplomat
Backbone Campaign
Brad Blog
Cities for Peace
CODE PINK: Women for Peace
Daniel Ellsberg, Truth-Telling Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
Delaware Valley Veterans for America
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Gold Star Families for Peace
Grandmothers Against the War
Grassroots America
High Road for Human Rights Advocacy Project
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Justice Through Music
Marcus Raskin, co-founder of Institute for Policy Studies, member of editorial board of the Nation, member of the special staff of the National Security Council in the Kennedy Administration
Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored
Naomi Wolf, author of /End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot/, and /Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries/
National Accountability Network
Northeast Impeachment Coalition
Op Ed News
Peace Action
Peace Team
The Progressive
Progressive Democrats of America
Republicans for Impeachment
United for Peace and Justice
Velvet Revolution
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Veterans for Peace
Voters for Peace
War Crimes Times
Wisconsin Impeachment/Bring Our Troops Home Coalition