2002 January 9

John Yoo: Bush Administration Can Ignore Geneva Conventions


At the request of the General Counsel of the Pentagon, Assistant Attorney General John Yoo drafted a memo on this day arguing that U.S. law, the Geneva Conventions, and other international treaties “do not protect” members of al Qaeda or the Taliban. Yoo was in the Office of Legal Counsel (OCL) in the administration of President George W. Bush and was responsible for legal memos defending Bush administration policies in the war on terrorism. Yoo argued that “customary international law of armed conflict in no way binds the President or the US Armed Forces concerning the detention or trial of members of al Qaeda and the Taliban.” In short, the President has the power to suspend or ignore the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions.

For the three applicable Geneva Conventions, see December 8, 1949. For John Yoo’s notorious “torture memo,” see August 1, 2002. Jack Goldsmith became head of the Office of Legal Counsel in late 2003 and in the spring of 2004 revoked some of the crucial OLC memos on the war on terrorism. His actions precipitated an unprecedented confrontation over administration policy on March 10, 2004, when White House officials tried to coerce Attorney General John Ashcroft when he was in the hospital for surgery.

Read Yoo’s book on presidential war powers: John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace (2005)

Watch John Yoo discuss President Bush’s torture policies before Congress: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUHoi1gKfrM

Read Jack Goldsmith’s inside account of the OCL memos: Jack Goldsmith, The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration (2007)

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