As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Failing Upwards

I almost have to get out of my seat and clap at the absurdity of this news: Torture lawyer John Yoo has been given a monthly column at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

That's a data point you'd expect at the end of a Vonnegut novel. So it goes.

Aside from justifying waterboarding and other forms of torture, aside from saying that terror suspects didn't deserve habeas corpus because it costs too much, aside from willingly offering every argument to aggrandize executive power in ways that would make a monarch blush, aside from authorizing a torture regime that has led to multiple homicides, aside from a looming disciplinary report from the Office of Professional Responsibility, aside from potential war crimes trials in Spain, here is the latest handiwork from Yoo, designed to get him and his buddies off scot-free (clearly he didn't need to worry):

A Bush administration attorney who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects advocated in 2006 that President Bush set aside recommendations by his own Justice Department to bring prosecutions for such practices, that the President should consider pardoning anyone convicted of such offenses, and even that jurors hearing criminal cases about such matters engage in jury nullification.

That advice came from John Yoo, a former attorney with the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and author of memos that served as a legal rationale for the Bush administration's interrogation techniques. Yoo's recommendations constitute one of the most compelling pieces of a body of evidence that Yoo and other government attorneys improperly skewed legal advice to allow such practices, according to sources familiar with a still-confidential Justice Department report.

I don't think you need further evidence that Yoo and his cohorts knew what they did was wrong in the eyes of the law. Of course, to the media fraternity, that just means he's "knowledgeable," as it says in this explanation of Yoo's hiring from the editor of the Inquirer opinion page:

John Yoo has written freelance commentaries for The Inquirer since 2005, however he entered into a contract to write a monthly column in late 2008. I won't discuss the compensation of anyone who writes for us. Of course, we know more about Mr. Yoo's actions in the Justice Department now than we did at the time we contracted him. But we did not blindly enter into our agreement. He's a Philadelphian, and very knowledgeable about the legal subjects he discusses in his commentaries. Our readers have been able to get directly from Mr. Yoo his thoughts on a number of subjects concerning law and the courts, including measures taken by the White House post-9/11. That has promoted further discourse, which is the objective of newspaper commentary.

His most recent op-ed attacks President Obama for seeking "empathy" in his next Supreme Court pick. Obviously Yoo wouldn't know anything about that.

Here's Will Bunch:

But it's not too late to change things. Last Sunday's column by Yoo should also be his last, period. While Yoo is a free man who is thus free to utter his detestable viewpoints on any public street corner, the Inquirer has no obligation to so loudly promote these ideas that are so far outside of the mainstream. People should write the Inquirer -- -- or call the newspaper and tell them that torture advocates are not the kind of human beings who belong regularly on a newspaper editorial page, officially sanctioned. Journalists here in Philadelphia or elsewhere who wish to strategize on where to take this next should email me at

I'll write the paper, but this really makes me sad more than anything. Not only has a substantial portion of the country accepted torture as a viable option, the scoundrels who authorized it, who debased this country, are not only likely to avoid any justice for the crimes they committed, but they're getting op-ed columns to boot, a ticket into polite society. Despite the fact that Jay Bybee's moral and ethical fitness can be fully questioned by his decision to allow torture committed in our name, he can just lobby his Congresscritters and elude accountability and sit on the federal bench in judgment of other Americans.

And here's maybe the kicker to the whole thing - at least in Bybee's case - federal judges can be held accountable in this country. It just happened yesterday:

A disgraced federal judge was sentenced Monday to nearly three years in prison for lying to investigators about whether he sexually abused his secretary.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent was sentenced to 33 months Monday. He was also fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to the two women whose complaints resulted in the first sex abuse case against a sitting federal judge.

Kent could have received up to 20 years in prison after admitting to obstruction of justice, but prosecutors said they wouldn’t seek more than three years under a plea agreement.

“Your wrongful conduct is a huge black X ... a stain on the judicial system itself, a matter of concern in the federal courts,” U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said as he imposed the sentence. Vinson is a visiting senior judge called in from Pensacola, Fla.

Right after the verdict, this popped up in my email inbox, a joint statement from the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee:

Unless Judge Samuel Kent immediately resigns, we intend to introduce a resolution jointly tomorrow to commence an inquiry into whether grounds exist to impeach him and remove him from office.

Are they trying to kill me?

I'm obviously not saying that a sex abuser doesn't deserve this kind of treatment, but that for some reason, authorizing torture which led to detainee homicide doesn't get the dander up in Washington in the same fashion. It makes a mockery of the phrase "moral obligation."

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