John Yoo Really Is Off the Hook


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In more good news for notorious UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, says the president does not think Bush-era policymakers who enabled torture should be prosecuted. Emanuel made the statement on yesterday's "This Week" on ABC TV. Last week, Obama said that CIA agents and military interrogators who followed Yoo's legal memos from when he worked for the Bush Department of Justice would not be prosecuted. It now appears that the Obama administration has no intention of going after anyone involved in torturing prisoners in violation of federal and international laws. How that's for change we can believe in?

Yoo, however, is not completely out of the woods. Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon said Friday that he plans to keep the investigation of Yoo and five other Bush-era lawyers open, despite the call last week by Spain's top prosecutor to dismiss the case. Luckily for Yoo, Garzon plans to submit the case to a judicial lottery, which means that any one of six judges could get the case, according to Reuters news agency. That judge will then make the decision as whether the case against Yoo will proceed. In other words, Garzon, who is most famous for going after Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet, only has a one-in-six chance of landing the Yoo investigation.

Those are pretty good odds for the Berkeley law professor. And it probably means that his job at UC Berkeley is safe - at least for now. Remember, Boalt Law School Dean Christopher Edley Jr. has said that there is nothing the university can do against Yoo unless he's convicted of a crime. With Obama refusing to prosecute, despite strong evidence of criminality, and with the odds in Spain stacked in Yoo's favor, it looks like the radical right-wing lawyer will be a fixture on the Berkeley campus for years to come.

Unless, of course, he is disbarred, which remains a possibility. An investigation stated during the Bush administration by the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility is expected to conclude that Yoo and his cohorts acted unethically when they authorized torture and warrantless wiretapping. If that happens, then the Pennsylvania state bar, where Yoo holds his law license, could begin disbarment proceedings against him. It's not clear whether UC Berkeley would fire Yoo if he is disbarred, or his license to practice law is suspended. But it certainly would be another huge embarrassment for one of the most prestigious law schools in the world.