Cross-posted from Slate
John Yoo’s recently released March 14, 2003, OLC memo is a tour de force of legal analysis gone bad. The memo has been rightly vilified here and elsewhere for making the president a king and for contributing to a torture culture in America. But even though Yoo’s memo has been repudiated, its discredited ideas live on in the detention system he helped create. Worse, Congress has now codified many of Yoo’s ideas through the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
The prisoners condemned to legal limbo as “enemy combatants” are the first casualties of Yoo’s War on Law. Hundreds of men (many completely innocent) have spent years imprisoned at Guantanamo without habeas corpus or due process because Yoo and others sought to create a prison beyond the law. Guantanamo, in turn, has given rise to a combined system of indefinite detention (through Combatant Status Review Tribunals) and trials by military commissions that depend upon evidence gained through the very coercive interrogation tactics that Yoo sought to legitimize. Indeed, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartman, the commissions’ legal adviser, maintains that military judges can even rely on evidence gained by water-boarding, a torture technique sanctioned by Yoo’s earlier (and now repudiated) Aug. 1, 2002, legal opinion. In other words, no evidence is too tainted for the Guantanamo commissions to consider.
Meanwhile, my client Ali Saleh Kahlah Almarri, a legal resident alien, is approaching his fifth year in virtual isolation at a Navy brig near Charleston, S.C., based upon Yoo’s discredited assertion that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the president’s conduct of the “war on terror” inside the United States. Remarkably, the administration continues to defend the proposition that the president can seize terrorist suspects in the country and detain them indefinitely as “enemy combatants” even though its deliberate mooting of the Jose Padilla case in the Supreme Court shows it recognizes that proposition is legally bankrupt…