Yoo Memo Released: What’s Left to Get Angry About?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


abu-ghraib-photo-yoo.jpg The Yoo memo that is making headlines today isn’t anything new. We’ve known the content of this “torture memo” for quite some time. Sent to the Pentagon by John Yoo, then a deputy in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, in 2003, the memo provided the legal foundation for the DOD’s “aggressive interrogations,” including waterboarding. The primary justification was simple: If the president wants to do something in a war, it’s legal. Or, as the Washington Post puts it today in a front page article, the memo “contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president’s inherent wartime powers.”

The secondary justifications aren’t much better. If an American serviceman hurt a detainee in an interrogation, he or she could argue a “national and international version of the right to self-defense,” because the interrogation was intended to procure information that would prevent further attacks on America. The memo ruled with completely confidence that Congress has no jurisdiction over interrogations and that the Geneva Conventions (and all other treaties governing behavior during wartime) are irrelevant.

The reason the memo is in the news now is because it has finally been declassified and can be read in full. (You can view it at the Post‘s website.)

Marty Lederman, a former lawyer with the Office of Legal Counsel, has read it and says it basically authorizes “a law-free zone.” His thoughts are here. Emily Bazelon of Slate has done the same and finds the “air of uttery certainty” breathtaking. Kevin Drum notes that “there was nothing in it that compromised national security either then or now. The only thing it compromised was the president’s desire not to have to defend his own policies.”

At this point, there’s just no outrage left. Everything we learn about the administration now is simply part of a massive educational process about how not to run the executive branch.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate