Yoo, John Choon

views updated

Yoo, John Choon

Lawyer and scholar John Yoo came to national prominence as one of the primary thinkers behind the Department of Justice's so-called "torture memo," which laid out the Bush administration's legal reasoning for committing acts of torture in the war on terror. Yoo, a South Korean-born professor of law at University of California-Berkeley, worked as a member of the Office of Legal Counsel when the infamous memo was drafted.

Yoo earned degrees from Harvard and Yale prior to taking his position at Berkeley. He clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, from 1992 to 1993, and then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from 1994 to 1995. He is the author of numerous articles and two books, The Powers of War and Peace: Foreign Affairs and the Constitution after 9/11 and War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror. The first book laid out Yoo's view of the presidency in a wartime environment, leading one legal scholar to write that "Yoo concludes that for all intents and purposes we have an elected king," referring to Yoo's assertion that the president possesses broad powers given by the Constitution to conduct a war as he sees fit, without intereference from Congress.

This view has proven, unsurprisingly, to foster highly divisive views based on political alliance. His second book sparked further support and anger, leading a Washington Post review to write that Yoo's view of the presidency was "extreme, reckless and dangerous…. That it has shaped the policies of our government is nothing short of irresponsible. Even U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner, no slouch when it comes to advocating the aggressive use of government power to combat terrorism, has charged that Yoo's 'extravagant interpretation of presidential authority … confuses commanding the armed forces with exercising dictatorial control' of the sort exercised by 'a Hitler or a Stalin.'"

John Choon Yoo

Born, South Korea
Joined faculty at University of California at Berkeley
Served in Office of Legal Counsel
First book, The Powers of War and Peace, published
Second book, War By Other Means, published

Yoo, for his part, has been outspoken in supporting his work. In a Washington Post article, he commented that "The worst thing you could do, now that people are critical of your views, is to run and hide. I agree with the work I did. I have an obligation to explain it. I'm one of the few people who is willing to defend decisions I made in government."