John Yoo is a tenured professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law. He worked for the Bush administration from 2001-2003 as deputy assistant attorney general. Yoo wrote legal memos affirming the use of torture by the United States against suspected terrorists.
After an emotional, rancorous debate over torture and academic freedom, Berkeley’s City Council passed a measure late Monday night imploring the United States to prosecute Berkeley resident and former White House official John Yoo for war crimes.
“John Yoo took a material involvement in the deaths and torture of untold numbers of people,” said Councilman Max Anderson, choking back tears during the council’s debate. “The broken bodies, the broken spirits, the broken trust he wrought with his actions – that’s why they call these crimes against humanity.”
The city will send a letter to the incoming U.S. attorney general and the U.S. attorney for Northern California asking that they prosecute Yoo for war crimes. The measure updates a March 2007 initiative asking the United States to prosecute former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Yoo and other officials.
Did Berkeley do the right thing in their public square condemnation of John Yoo?
Or are war crimes only to be defined by the United States government — a government in which Yoo served and helped reduce the meaning of torture?