Daily Show: John Yoo Interview


I find the way Yoo snickers about it, and makes a mockery of the whole discussion absolutely repulsive. On the other hand I can't bring to hold him to account for ultimately the executive decisions that he wasn't implicitly responsible for making, even if his legal advice enabled it.


It's aggravating to listen to him (Yoo) speak as Stewart is trying to distill the conversation down to layman's terms, yet Yoo refuses to do so unless the question is formulated just so. I'm even willing to go as far as Yoo is doing so, not entirely out of maliciousness, rather than the topic itself cannot be overly simplified so easily as Stewart is want to do for the sake of the program and it's audience.

I essentially heard that treaties weren't worth the paper they were signed on. "How much can we torture before it becomes unconstitutional." vs "America does not torture."

A game of semantics and a game that in the end, no one wins.


This does not go into the comedy channel.

I did not laugh once during this. Any one who does I question your sanity.

It makes no sense because its bullshit. The man is muddying the waters so that he doesn't end up in a prison cell or publicly shamed.


I find it disappointing that Stewart didn't press him further on the issue of torture as a war crime that America had prosecuted in the past, because there was at least one case where a Japanese prison camp officer was convicted of war crimes and torture because he waterboarded American personnel.


(I think this is my longest post ever, and I really hate long posts, and now I'm just making it longer. But read this one. It's pretty good)

The Constitution is a document that, like a lyric poem, is ultimately a flawed representation of the understandings and intentions of those who wrote it. Differences in the interpretation of the words, clauses, punctuation, and structure of the document can and do mean vast differences in the meaning and application of the rules of the nation. This principle of interpretation is as elementary as it is meaningful.

The Geneva Convention is likewise a document, or series of documents, that poses a similar jurisprudential problem. What Yoo presents in this interview is an indirect, yet unimpeachable explanation of the process by which such documents are examined and applied. There is what is called a "bright line rule" in the Geneva Convention regarding "torture"--i.e. it is a violation of the agreement. However, unlike in local and national statutes where definitions of terms often constitute thousands of pages, the Geneva Convention does not enumerate torturous acts. The term is left largely undefined. What Yoo explains here is that he was tasked with coming up with a legal definition of that term.

The problem many have with this task is that Yoo was directed to define the term as strictly as possible to allow his client (the Office of the Executive) as much leeway as possible. As it turns out, as Yoo tries to explain, there is a dearth of constitutional and legal precedent regarding the legal definition of "torture" (not that such precedent is nonexistent, however, as D_J points out above). Compounding this (for us liberals) is the correct determination that Yoo made regarding the broad powers that the Constitution, the legal precedent and indeed the framers themselves intend the Executive to hold in times of crisis. (For a more in-depth understanding of these claims, read about Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, and about the Society of the Cincinatti). Applying this broad-power tenet to the analysis of the legal definition of "torture" yields a hairy result: the Executive actually has a right and a duty to define the ambiguous term in a way that will most effectively protect the national interest. This is the conclusion that Yoo, and any other lawyer or legal scholar, would come to.

Now, my problem with the recommendation enumerating interrogation techniques that are and are not torture is not that the DoJ or the Bush Administration bent the rule. There was no way to implement the rule without bending it: without an established legal definition, any implementation requires interpretation. There could be no alteration of interrogation techniques ever without interpreting or reinterpreting the term "torture." My problem (and I suppose that this is the problem I am trying to convince you to have as well) is that they did not include enough factors in their calculation of the national interest.

Yoo argues (believes?) that the majority of American citizens support/supported waterboarding, but this is irrelevant. It is not the job of the Executive, and certainly not of the DoJ, to do the will of the people. This is a Republican democracy where (ideally) we elect people not because we think or hope they will execute our will in government, but because we believe them to be more capable of making the analyses and decisions of government. Therefore, a popular mandate does not justify public policy nor excuse elected officials from accountability. It cannot be right only because the people wanted it. This principle is written into the Constitution (which decentralizes power like you wouldn't believe, including the power of the people) in numerable ways, and has been upheld in many aspects by the Supreme Court of the US.

It is the duty of the Executive Office to calculate the national interest in every way multiple times a day. I think what Stewart was trying to get at (in an uncharacteristically poor way) is that the people involved in this decision made a potentially catastrophic failure in their calculation, because they didn't weigh the repercussions (both foreign and domestic) of using waterboarding and other questionable techniques in interrogations. He spends too much time trying to debate the constitutionality of the process and trying to enforce his perception that water boarding is obviously torture (and here the perception of the masses might be relevant, as it might mean that it is not obviously torture, although there is a strong argument that the public perception might truly be that water boarding is torture, but that we're cool with it). Stewart doesn't focus on the policy issues of using questionable techniques. What Yoo says in this interview about the process he used to interpret the not-so bright-line rule "No Torture" is not and should not be the issue. Even though I come down on the "yes it is" side, whether waterboarding is torture under the Geneva Convention is, I'm sorry to say, truly a matter of legal opinion. The issue we should have is that it doesn't matter whether you can legally define "torture" to include or exclude waterboarding, but that waterboarding should not be used regardless of definition.



Whether you agree with Yoo or not, the questions raised by both Yoo and Stewart are important ones for every American to think about.

It's important for us to realize that whether we like it or not, our President can have the power and legal precedent to do just about anything unless the public fights back.


i struggled with this interview due to Woo being so vague and obtuse but in the third part he finally gives some insight to his possible reasons.

those reasons are quite simply an argument that stems to the beginning of this republic.his defense is an ideological one and is very hard to prosecute but easy to defend.the federalist papers were an ongoing argument between alexander hamilton and james madison (if i recollect properly) and the basic premise was,in summary,which is a more beneficial form of government in regards to the federal governments role.
1.a fairly weak federal government whose role is security and little else.leaving the bulk of responsibility on the states.
2.a strong federal government with not only security as a responsibility but also final say on states powers to regulate themselves.
this is the basic argument and we still have representative ideologies today in our political landscape i.e:democrat-republican.

Woo seems to be of the idea that it is the ultimate responsibility of the federal government,and more specifically,the executive branch that should wield greater power.
this is his right though you may disagree.
what i find perplexing is that Woo is a neo-conservative and a republican party member.this is the party of SMALLER government and weaker powers.why would he use a democrat philosophy?
answer=because he is full of shit and nothing of what he did had anything to with his political philosophy.he created the torture memos to absolve his superiors of any wrong-dong by manipulating the law.
it is either that or he is a confused,misguided tool.
considering he is a professor of constitutional law i am going to guess he was working at the behest of those who wielded power at the time.
he is a whore who traded his political ideologies for career asperations.
that or he is a closet democrat.

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