Yoo in the hot seat — again

Five years after the fact and John Yoo still can’t shake his past and “those” memos.

The tenured law professor at the University of California Berkeley is under attack again, as seven additional “torture” memos were released to the public for the first time last spring, while he taught at Chapman University School of Law in Orange County, Calif.

With his return to Berkeley this fall, he was greeted with protests over his employment in response to the series of controversial memoranda he wrote about interrogation techniques while with the U.S. Justice Department. Again, five years ago.

UC-Berkeley Professor Bradley DeLong wrote a letter requesting an official inquiry into Yoo’s actions by the university’s Academic Senate. The protests on campus and DeLong’s letter raised issues of academic freedom, although Yoo was on leave from Berkeley at the time of the memos.

The memoranda in question occurred during Yoo’s employment with the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as deputy assistant attorney general from 2001 to 2003. Several of those memos stated Yoo’s legal opinion was that a variety of controversial interrogation techniques, including water-boarding, were within the rights of the president as commander-in-chief and the Department of Defense as his agent in time of war and specifically in the case of Al Qaeda and other suspected terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

While Yoo’s law school employment status at Berkeley may be safe for the time being – indeed, his Advanced Civil Procedures II class is oversubscribed this fall with 165 students – he has agreed to testify before a congressional committee regarding his role in the so-called “torture memos,” in part to determine whether he may have culpability for any infringement of detainees’ rights.

Law School Dean Christopher Edley, in an open letter to UC-Berkeley faculty, administration and students, made it clear that he did not agree with the legal or moral stances espoused in Yoo’s memos, but he also felt that at this time, an official inquiry by the school or any other institutional discipline of Yoo was both unfeasible and a threat to the concept of academic freedom.

We want to know what you think. What sort of action should the UC-Berkeley administration should take? Comment in our Advice & Consent blog by going to www.NationalJurist.com.

By Michelle Weyenberg and Jim Dunlap for The National Jurist