“Torture Memo” Author Detained in Oakland

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He was "detained" only because of a mechanical problem with a plane on which he had hoped to fly to the Ninth Circuit conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.  But former deputy AG and "torture memo" author John Yoo‘s failure to show for a panel discussion on Monday allowed various wisecrackers to wisecrack about where he might be.

According to the Daily Journal (July 30), Judge Consuelo Callahan "drew laughter from many" when she announced that Yoo, now a professor at UC Berkeley, wouldn’t be available because he had been "unexpectedly detained for six hours" at Oakland International Airport.  Had his name finally shown up on the terrorist watchlist, along with the approximately one million other names that are likely on that list by now?  See "Nelson Mandela Removed From U.S. Terror Watchlist," Lowering the Bar (July 3, 2008) (citing report discussing number of names on the list).  Apparently not.  Yoo blamed Delta.  "Indeed, Delta Airlines frustrated my best efforts yesterday to make it from Oakland to Sun Valley," Yoo wrote in an email to the Journal.

If Yoo is suggesting Delta Airlines acted intentionally, and given that being stuck in Oakland for any length of time could easily cause "prolonged mental harm" and "intense suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be associated with physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result" (Yoo’s own clever and succinct definition), maybe Delta should be concerned about torture charges?  Considering the potential plaintiff, maybe not.

"Would have been a better story if the International War Crimes Tribunal had whisked him off" to The Hague, "joked" Chief District Judge Robert Lasnik of Seattle.

Yoo was replaced on the panel by former Solicitor General Paul Clement.  The question for the panel was reportedly, "Does the President have to obey the law?" which is something I thought we had settled but apparently I was just being naive.  (Kenneth Starr’s answer: of course not.)  Clement said, maybe unsurprisingly, that we all should be "forward-looking" about this question.  "Whatever you think of this president," he said, trying to frame the debate, "what authority should the next president have?"  Well, I think he should have some, but maybe he should do less with it.

Link: ABA Journal