We are a group of Berkeley Law alumni and current students, community members, lawyers and other legal workers who are writing to you to express complete outrage and disappointment in Berkeley Law’s decision to honor John Yoo with an endowed faculty chair.
John Yoo is most notorious for his legal memos used to justify torture of detainees and warrantless domestic spying during the George W. Bush administration.
The Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility described his work as “intentional professional misconduct.” Jack Goldsmith, then Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Justice Department, rescinded several of Yoo’s memos and notified the Department of Defense that it could no longer rely on Yoo’s legal analysis. Goldsmith found Yoo’s legal work to be “legally flawed, tendentious in substance and tone, and overbroad…”
While U.S. officials have failed to formally prosecute or indict John Yoo, this is not an indication of innocence on his part. This lack of accountability is the result of the absence of political will on the part of the Obama Administration to prosecute or extradite war criminals—despite the U.S.’s legal obligation to do so under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The ample evidence that John Yoo and others in the Bush Administration committed war crimes has been documented in the criminal actions pursued against Yoo in several countries, including France, Spain, and Malaysia. The latter country not only proceeded with investigating allegations that John Yoo, George W. Bush, and other members of the Bush Administration were responsible for the commission of war crimes, including torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, the Malaysian War Crimes Commission ultimately ruled that the defendants were indeed guilty of such crimes.
We feel that the UC Berkeley School of Law, as one of the leading law schools in the country, has an obligation to uphold ethical legal standards. Yet by maintaining and honoring John Yoo, the law school is undermining its own ethical, political, and legal reputation. Bestowing this honor sends the message that the UC Berkeley School of Law is condoning and promoting policies violating the most fundamental constitutional and human rights. That, in itself, broadens the negative effect Yoo’s jurisprudence has had in the legal and political world. But it also furthers the hostile and unsafe environment on campus for students identifying themselves as political dissidents and/or religious and cultural minorities disproportionately and unfairly targeted in the “War on Terror."
It is shameful, not to mention incredibly disrespectful to the victims of torture, for the UC Berkeley School of Law to honor him. The undersigned demand that this honor be rescinded. We refuse to support the law school or UC Berkeley, financially or otherwise, until this is done. We further demand that the University conduct a transparent, independent investigation of Yoo’s conduct to determine if other actions are necessary.