Guy Who Wrote Legal Memos Defending US Torture Defends NSA Because It Takes Too Long To Obey The Constitution

from the a-despicable-human-being dept

John Yoo, of course, is somewhat infamous for being the author of the so-called “Torture Memos,” while he was Deputy US Attorney General for President George W. Bush, giving the Bush administration a horrific legal “justification” for torture. It’s no surprise, of course, that he’s been spewing ignorant and ridiculous claims concerning other issues as well. We recently wrote about his claims that new media properties like Wikileaks have no First Amendment protections because they’re “not the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.” Because in Yoo’s demented world, only old school newspapers count. He also made factually incorrect claims, stating that Bradley Manning and Julian Assange “communicated regularly” when the record showed that was simply not true.

Not surprisingly, he’s now strongly defending the NSA’s activities spying on Americans because there appears to be no part of the Constitution that John Yoo won’t spit on and pretend he’s merely polishing it up. He argues that while the Justice Department should obey the 4th Amendment, it should not apply to military and intelligence agencies like the NSA:

Once we impose those standards [basic 4th Amendment respect for privacy] on the military and intelligence agencies, however, we are either guaranteeing failure or we must accept a certain level of error. If the military and intelligence agencies had to follow law-enforcement standards, their mission would fail because they would not give us any improvement over what the FBI could achieve anyway. If the intelligence community is to detect future terrorist attacks through analyzing electronic communications, we are asking them to search through a vast sea of e-mails and phone-call patterns to find those few which, on the surface, look innocent but are actually covert terrorist messages.

Except, that’s not how it works. We have the 4th Amendment specifically to protect against government intrusion. We don’t say “oh, it’s okay because they need to do it.” That’s not how it works. There’s no “exception” to the 4th Amendment for military and intelligence agencies.

Then he tries to argue that the “mistakes” are no big deal, because, hey, all of law enforcement makes mistakes.

Domestic law enforcement makes these errors too. Police seek warrants for the wrong guy, execute a search in the wrong house, arrest the wrong suspect, and even shoot unarmed suspects. We accept these mistakes because we understand that no law-enforcement system can successfully protect our communities from crime with perfection.

Actually, I’m not sure in what world Yoo lives in, but for the most part we don’t accept those mistakes. We find them abhorrent and we work to stop them. And, this isn’t “seeking the warrant for the wrong guy,” or searching “the wrong house.” This is collecting all information on everyone. There’s a difference.

Then, there’s the bogus “if we don’t do this the terrorists will win” argument:

To end the NSA’s efforts to intercept terrorist communications would be to willfully blind ourselves to the most valuable intelligence sources on al-Qaeda (now that the president won’t allow the capture and interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders).

In Yoo’s scary world, the ends justify the means. Of course, that way tyranny and dictatorship lie. You can justify anything under Yoo’s rationale. If we want “the most valuable intelligence” to stop attacks, why not place cameras and microphones in everyone’s house and cars and record it all with voice recognition software. After all, that would provide much more “valuable intelligence sources.” There’s a reason there are limits on government surveillance, and it appears that Yoo was absent that day at Yale law school when they taught that part. The rationale he gives has no limits, which is why it’s not surprising that he’s still pushing for torturing people, despite the fact that it’s abhorrent and has never been shown to actually be effective.

And then… he explains why it’s okay to ignore the Constitution on this one:

Increasing judicial oversight might reduce errors — though I am dubious — but in a way that would seriously slow down the speed of the program, which is all-important if the mission is to stop terrorists.

In other words, obeying the Constitution just takes too much time. What Yoo is missing is that’s the whole point. We live in a world where there are risks, but we are supposed to live in a free country, where we don’t invade everyone’s privacy for the myth of some smidgen of greater protection. Law enforcement’s job is supposed to be hard, because if it’s not, there is much more abuse for almost no benefit. It’s why we live in a country where, we’re told, you’re innocent until proven guilty. It’s because we believe in protecting our rights, even if it means that sometimes someone gets away with a crime. However, in Yoo’s world, it would be a hell of a lot more efficient if everyone was guilty until proven innocent, because that’s a lot faster. And, as he notes, sure there are some mistakes, but the ratio would probably be reasonable, so what’s the big deal?

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Comments on “Guy Who Wrote Legal Memos Defending US Torture Defends NSA Because It Takes Too Long To Obey The Constitution”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Re: There's one thing John Yoo missed

Have my insightful vote. And it’s people like Yoo that help make the victory more reverberating and complete. Al Qaeda just needs to sit back and enjoy while the US self-destructs along with all the ideals, values they (Al Qaeda) hate and that the US once held dear.

The surveillance state, the “anti-terrorism” efforts, those are proof of how complete the victory is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: There's one thing John Yoo missed

“along with all the ideals, values they (Al Qaeda) hate and that the US once held dear”

Is this really what they hate about the western world (ie not just the US)

Could it be that “western” interference in their lives has something to do with it?

Nah – overthrowing governments and installing tyrants is something I’m sure they welcome.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's one thing John Yoo missed

Since 9/11…the people
can’t fly without an embarrassing search…
can’t carry basic technology without being searched at the borders…
can’t have a private conversation anymore . . .
can get sued for leaving a negative rating against a dentist or company
can go to jail for talking smack on FaceBook
have found it difficult to illegal to resell legitimately purchased goods (games, consoles, books, even watches.)

while the system is…
allowed to kill people just because (with drones)…
allowed to use drones to snoop on you when the “target” don’t use traditionally tracked devices
allowed to detain people without cause
creating a monster huge debt burden while showing absolutely no value

which has allowed the police to….
take pictures of your car and track that (but won’t help you recover a lost/stolen vehicle)
be more ready to issue red-light tickets or enforce new weird policies rather than solve actual crimes

In the bigger picture
stock market went up 56%. this is actually a loss since 10 years prior, it was up 228%
bonds are down to

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: There's one thing John Yoo missed

John Yoo missed nothing. The only reason they want to call “Traditional press” press, for the purposes of free speech protection is because you can shake down traditional press. You can’t shake down wikileaks.

It wasn’t about legitimacy and never was – it was all about “who can be controlled”.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: There's one thing John Yoo missed

You would have thought that the man forced to live in caves and secure compounds, with the militarily largest nation on the planet after him, might have put forth a little evidence to that effect if it were even remotely credible. Even if it weren’t true, it might cause some schisms.

No, go back to denying the moon landing too.

Unless of course you mean by the USA government doing it, that they let it happen through sheer incompetence and pigheadedness.

Anonymous Coward says:

“If the military and intelligence agencies had to follow law-enforcement standards, their mission would fail because they would not give us any improvement over what the FBI could achieve anyway.”

So if we actually are going to enforce the Constitution, we should just shut down the CIA and NSA? After all, they can’t give us any improvement.

“… shoot unarmed suspects. We accept these mistakes…”

Excuse me, but who is this “we” that accepts the shooting of unarmed suspects?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The FBI is an intelligence agency so I guess you meant why is the NSA, the intelligence agency run by the military, doing the FBI’s job. The answer to that is simple. Power. They want access to and control of all communications information regardless of where it originates and terminates as therein lies the most power for those who have it, the Constitution be damned. They really don’t care about the partisan politics either as long as whoever is in office does not stand in their way. I think Obama when he was campaigning actually intended to roll back the NSA powers before one of two things happened. Either they coerced him by showing him that they could sufficiently destroy him or they enticed him with providing him access to power that he could not resist. That is what I believe happened to those promises.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They’ve also effectively abolished Habeus Corpus and can now imprison anyone they like without any evidence, no right to legal representation etc.

– Have forcibly removed ‘some’ citizens right to bear arms (and debating even further controls along this path)

Its Martial law in all but name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes unfortunately you are, they just haven’t declared it.

What Obama HAS said though is that he feels its OK to drone-murder US citizens INSIDE the US if he feels they’re anti-government enough.

The current adminstration controls many media outlets such as Time and Fox directly and ORDERS them (on penalty of being shutdown) to print exactly what the government wants.

The only thing they HAVEN’T (yet) introduced is a curfew (and that has been debated for a trial-run in places like Detroit)

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The problem with Obama is that he’s just like the prior few presidents. Nothing he’s done is any better, or worse, than them. To single him out as a cause of our problems is to be distracted by the real cause of our problems.

The current adminstration controls many media outlets such as Time and Fox directly and ORDERS them (on penalty of being shutdown) to print exactly what the government wants.

Evidence, please.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: John Yoo is a coward

I thought that the President and members of Congress were also sworn to uphold the Constitution.

Seems that when someone actually does attempt to uphold the Constitution – they are arrested, possibility tortured, eviscerated in the “liberal” media and later put on trial and made an example of … because you do not want to go through that shit storm.

Tell me again – who are we afraid of?

out_of_the_blue says:

Military and intelligence already failed two biggest tests.

“Once we impose those standards [basic 4th Amendment respect for privacy] on the military and intelligence agencies, however, we are either guaranteeing failure or we must accept a certain level of error.” — But as always with gov’t (and Microsoft*) we hit worst case routinely: loss of civil privacy AND yet still “terrorist” attacks.

John Yoo, like all “Republicans” and most “Democrats” is entirely fascist except for those labels.

[* That just fits, kids. Too bad if you’re offended because like that massive pile of expensive crapware.]

Michael (profile) says:

If the military and intelligence agencies had to follow law-enforcement standards, their mission would fail because they would not give us any improvement over what the FBI could achieve anyway

Which is exactly why the military, NSA, and CIA are not allowed to target US citizens. That what the FBI is for. A mission to spy on US citizens being perpertrated by the NSA is SUPPOSED to fail.

th (profile) says:

Yoo's a threat to national security

John Yoo is a direct threat to the national security of the Inited States of America and should be dealt with as such. For one, he minted terrorists by the thousands with his torture memo and the follow on practice. That’s just a historical fact. Anyone who creates terrorists is worse than any one single terrorist, right? Who cares WHAT his intentions were? It’s the results of his actions that count and have hurt the US>

As far as his new utterances, his proposal to throw out the Fourth Amendment and his complaint – which is simply a straight up lie – that Obama doesn’t interrogate prisoners (where does he get that from unless the only kind of interrogation worth being called such is torture- an idea that experts in the field of interrogation explicitly deny…) are poisonous enough to cause this nation to go up in civil war, at which point the terrorists really have more than “sorta” achieved their aim.

No the only way we’re going to get through this is all together, through the time honored- if boring to a sociopath like Yoo- process of deliberation and debate arriving at some agreed upon conclusions about how to proceed.

Yoo is a textbook psychopath. Look it up. Completely textbook. Printing utterances by him, even as an object intended to inspire derision- is counter productive. Obama decided not to prosecute anyone in the Bush administration for torture. Future Presidents and Congresses may not be so lenient depending on how things evolve. The fact is, Yoo is a Nazi-level war criminal guilty of Crimes Against Humanity.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Yoo’s stance is that the way to separate the few wolves from the multitudes of sheep is to tag and monitor every single sheep; with perfect surveillance, the wolves would stand out…

But we are not sheep,
these ‘terrorists’ are not wolves,
and the world is not a barnyard.

Fuck off, Yoo. I didn’t like you when you were perverting the law to justify torture and I like you even less with your crude, patronizing and rural view of people.

any moose cow word says:

Just because...

Some may argue that it takes too long to indict the president and top level staff who where responsible for this, we should just take them out behind the White House and have them shot, but some things are worth doing to maintain a civil democratic society.

And this is why we should not trust the CIA with nation building, for all these years they have been exempt from having to live in one.

any moose cow word says:

Re: Re: Just because...

Neither, but even a half-wit could figure that out. I’ve at least been paying attention to what the fuck has been going on, more than I could say for the dipshits who keep reelecting useless sellouts to congress. And who the HELL would pay anyone to stand up for the people’s rights these days and say those in government responsible for this should stand trial?

Eponymous Coward says:

The Law Against All...

In Yoo’s world everyone is presumed guilty of something, thus why we now “need” the surveilance state to ferret out what our individual crimes are. There’s no moral introspection as to whether this gathering of all data is right. Instead, the only bars are can it be legally rationalized, and is your crime is of a high enough threshold to warrant action. Both of these trends are very troubling: the former as pointed out in that anything can be legally condoned in this manner even targeted killing; and the later for as the judicial culture becomes more accepting of these programs that threshold will lower possibly to the point that we’ll face being prosecuted and/or fined over the mere mention of being involved in criminal activity. Think about that for a minute; being that there are so many laws on the book to the point we are all guilty of something coupled with the fact that we also inadvertently confess to many of these unintentional crimes in communicating with others how big of a social impact this could have if taken to the farthest degree. What comes to mind is the scene in Demolition Man where Stallone’s character gets a ticket every time he swears, but we instead get tickets/summons based on all our communication. Obviously this is the extreme, but with the Yoo’s of the world it isn’t out of the realm of the eventually possible.

any moose cow word says:

Re: The Law Against All...

I think that the biggest issue about having so many laws is not that anyone would be fined or jailed, but that such “offenses” provide a “legitimate” pretense to detain individuals and an enforceable threat to ensure their cooperation with investigations. At least most police states don’t bother with the trouble or expense of maintaining the illusion of legitimacy.

Regus Circus says:

John Yoo, waste of meat extraordinaire with a touch of major douchebag. I think this can only advance when people like John Yoo are just thrown in jail and left there, because you know, it would take way too long to explain to him why he is a sack of shit. If you don’t like my opinion you are probably in the Yoo category yourself.

Michael Price says:

“that would seriously slow down the speed of the program, which is all-important if the mission is to stop terrorists.”
How is it all-important? When has the time required to get a warrant been critical for stopping an attack, if any of these programs ever has? Oh what it’s classified and you can’t tell me I guess I’ll take your word for it.

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