Sandy Levinson writes:
Balkinization: I have also recently read William Stevenson's The Man Called Intrepid, about all sorts of irregular and illegal activities that book place both in Great Britain and the United States prior to the formal outbreak of World War II. Indeed, Robert Sherwood is quoted as saying that FDR realized that he would impeached if Americans knew of some of his violation of the neutrality acts. I have no reason to doubt that John Yoo believed that the situation facing the United States after September 11 was as dire as that facing England and the United States in 1939-40. How important is it whether one agrees or disagrees with his analysis of the situation and his concomitant willingness to do what he did?
I will be genuinely grateful for any reflections on these questions--and any other questions that any respondents might wish to raise--as I try to figure out my own position on whether Berkeley has any duty to initiate a serious inquiry into John Yoo's fitness to continue as a member of its faculty...
I thought that this was pretty clear. Neacessity is a defense or an excuse or a justification (whatever of those applies) for illegal actions. But it is necessity that is required-- not "I believed it was necessary," not "some unqualified bozo with bad judgment above me in the chain of command said he thought it was necessary."
If John Yoo had written "this is illegal but necessary" and if it had in fact been necessary for the safety of the world and the American people that we routinely torture goatherds sold to the CIA for cash by clan enemies claiming they belonged to Al Qaeda on the one-in-a-million chance that one of them knows something, I wouldn't have a problem with John Yoo.
But he did not write "this is illegal but necessary." And the torture of goatherds has made the world and the American people much less safe.
And, to say the least, I have grave doubts that anybody ever believed that the situation facing the United States after September 11 was as dire as that facing England and the United States in 1939-40.