Lawyers Request Report On Torture Memo Authors; Activists Protest John Yoo’s 'Secret Class’

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 21, 2010 - 09:15:00 AM

A group of lawyers, journalists and advocates filed a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday for a report about authors of the Bush administration's torture memos, including UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo.  

The request, made by the Robert Jackson Steering Committee, asks for the long-promised report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Attorney General Eric Holder was expected to release the report last month.  

Yoo is currently facing a civil suit filed by Jose Padilla, who alleges he was a victim of Yoo’s actions.  

Demonstrators have been protesting outside the law school since last year, calling for Yoo, a tenured professor, to be fired from the UC Berkeley School of law and investigated by the university.   

A group gathered outside the law school Tuesday to protest the undisclosed location of Yoo’s new class for the spring semester.  

About 20 people, mostly from World Can’t Wait and Code Pink, marched to law school Dean Christopher Edley’s office, demanding to meet with him.   

“How can a public university hold secret classes?” asked Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait. “The dean has made the class secret to protect the rights of the students. Our position is that it’s far more dangerous for them to learn the law from a war criminal.”  

Although the dean wasn’t present at his office Tuesday, the protesters met with his chief of staff and proposed a campus-wide debate on the torture memos.  

Yoo appeared recently on Comedy Central’s Daily Show to promote his new book Crisis and Command and is scheduled to speak at the Commonwealth Club Jan. 27 as part of his book tour.  

Tang said protesters were planning to show up there as well.  

Yoo’s spring 2010 course on the California Constitution, which he will be co-teaching with David Carrillo, a deputy attorney general with the state Justice Department, is listed on the law school website as meeting Tuesday evenings at a location “to be announced.”  

The class will examine constitutional design issues in light of recent calls for a constitutional convention.  

Steve Rosenbaum, a lecturer at the law school since 1988, said it was ironic that “the man whose legal advice led to practices carried out in secret venues is now himself teaching in an undisclosed location.”  

Dean Edley defended the law school’s decision and issued a statement saying, “vital principles of academic freedom require that all of us affirm and respect [Yoo’s] right to teach and the right of our students to take courses from him without interference, including disruption or intimidation. I have specifically asked my staff and the University Police to make reasonable efforts to prevent such disruption or intimidation and, if unsuccessful, to arrest trespassers.”    

Although Edley still maintains that Yoo should be allowed to teach at Berkeley on the grounds of academic freedom, his statement says that “this fidelity to academic freedom and our notions of excellence does not mean that students, staff and faculty are obligated to stand mute or ignore the controversy.  

“Protests that do not interfere with teaching and learning, and have no purpose or effect of intimidation, are certainly permissible,” he said. 

Law school spokesperson Susan Glass said that Edley had called the protesters’ complaints about “about secrecy and accountability a disservice to the serious issues they are trying to address.”  

Liz Jackson, a member of the student group Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture, said the whole idea of a “secret class” was silly.  

“It’s easy to find out where he’s teaching unless it’s in an underground bunker,” Jackson said. “If the law school builds something secret to protect an alleged war criminal, then that’s shameful. Why are they hiding him if they are not ashamed of what he’s done? If you have allowed an alleged war criminal to teach courses, you have to deal with public criticism.”