The Dark Side

I recently finished Jane Mayer’s excellent new book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. I thought I couldn’t read another thing about Addington, Yoo, and company, but Mayer’s book drew me in, and taught me a lot. There’s a lot I’d like to highlight from the book and blog about, but probably won’t have time to get to. But here’s an interesting detail she mentions in passing. You may recall this exchange between John Yoo and John Conyers when Yoo was called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee recently:

Conyers: Could the President order a suspect buried alive?
Yoo: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I don’t think I’ve ever given advice that the President could order someone buried alive. . .

Conyers: I didn’t ask you if you ever gave him advice. I asked you thought the President could order a suspect buried alive.

Yoo: Well Chairman, my view right now is that I don’t think a President . . . no American President would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.

Conyers: I think we understand the games that are being played.

I took Conyers’ question to be (useful) hyperbole, intended to draw out the virtually limitless theory of presidential power Yoo’s perspective entails–much like Professor David Cassell’s earlier question to Yoo: “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?” Yet in the course of discussing acting OLC head Dan Levin’s attempt to draft a replacement memo for Yoo’s repudiated August 2002 torture memo, Mayer writes:

“Levin refused, however to give the administration carte blanche. He had heard rumors that his predecessor, John Yoo, had orally approved especially questionable CIA practices, including the use of mind-altering drugs and mock-burials.” (Emphasis added).

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Posted on Sep 3, 2008 in Civil Liberties, Executive Power | Comments

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