Has a major American newspaper ever given a monthly platform to a former public official so he can regularly seek to thwart or at least criticize a criminal probe into the very program that he authorized while in government? Comes now Exhibit A, John Yoo, who is back in the Philadelphia Inquirer today and returns to his favorite topic: How America as we know it will be destroyed by an investigation into any aspect of torture and other war crimes that were authorized by his own legally dubious memoes.
Is this really ethical? Borderline, and I only say that because so far the smoke signals from the U.S. Justice Department is that they are only investigating extreme torture by rogue CIA agents and not thet actions by Yoo and his superiors like David Cheney and David Addington to apporve waterboarding and other torture tactics that had long been considered illegal. This even though a separate probe by internal Justice Department investigators reportedly accuses Yoo of "sloppy legal analysis, misjudgments and possible political interference in the process" and recommends possible disbarrmant.
Is it still highly disappointing to see Yoo use his newspaper-granted real estate mainly for his personal vindication crusade, You bet.
Last month, the president and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. launched a destructive investigation into the CIA's detention and interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders. Several of the detainees were directly involved with the planning and execution of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They were captured at a time when our government feared a second wave of attacks.
Our nation's leaders made the difficult decision to use coercive interrogation methods to learn as quickly as possible what these hardened al-Qaeda operatives knew. As one of many government lawyers who worked on these counterterrorism programs, I can attest to the terrible pressure of time and events in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Yoo's "Closing Argument" (as his column is called, perhaps in anticipation of his eventual day in court), however, is patently absurd: It makes the massive and unwarranted leap of logic that the decision to investigate the work of rogue CIA agents and contractors -- that is, the interrogators who went even beyond the legally and (more important) morally dubious standard established by Yoo and his colleagues -- is somehow an assault on the entire agency. To bolster his case, he takes something that happened 30 years ago that really has nothing to do with the issue at hand -- cutbacks in the CIA staffing in the wake of the scandals of the 1960s and '70s -- and seeks to muddle the issue by conflating that with the torture probe.
Staffing at the CIA is a political argument that is worth having, but torture is a crime, pure and simple. They have nothing to do with each other. To mix apples and oranges this way is an example of what several people joked that Yoo's Inquirer column should be called: "Tortured Logic." To make his muddled argument, Yoo yet again finds it necessary to turn America's core values on their head.
He writes of how a presidential candidate (Jimmy Carter) once said "[o]ur government should justify the character and moral principles of the American people..." -- which to Yoo is a bad thing, get it? Sigh. The Inquirer has hired two controversial conservative columnists in recent years -- one of them is now campaigning for president, while the other is campaigning to stay out of jail.