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?