(Toledo, OH) Several dozen protesters gathered at the University of Toledo College of Law to denounce the visit by John Yoo, a legal scholar whose work in the United States Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel helped create the PATRIOT Act.
Aside from some loud boos during the introduction of Yoo, though, the professor's speech went as scheduled. I did not stay for the entire speech, as I have heard Yoo's arguments on CSPAN, or repeated by the likes of John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez.
I am of the opinion that individual liberties are sacrosanct, while people such as Yoo believe that in times of war or domestic turmoil the President has the authority take actions that supercede the Constitution. Nothing that this distinguished scholar might say today will dissuade me of the belief that the President is above the law.
Anyways, I always find it interesting to see up close people who are villified in the media. Yoo is a well-spoken, thoughtful lecturer who in no way matches the sort of demonic rhetoric that some pundits ascribe to him.
And yet, I wholeheartedly disagree with his views on torture, war powers, and executive orders.
I do agree with Yoo one one point, which he reiterated today: "The issue of characterizing the actions of the 9/11 terrorists as 'criminal' or 'acts of war' is not one of partisan ideology, but rather of legal philosophy."
Unfortunately, there are many people who - like Yoo - are more than willing to compromise individual liberties in the name of the so-called War on Terror. The September 11 attackers committed horrible acts of violence, but the idea that they "declared war" on the United States is absurd, despite their jihadist rhetoric to the contrary.
I believe that "war" exists on an intranational basis, and that war can be declared only by sovereign nations or by regions seeking autonomy. Individuals, small bands of like-minded people, or organizations who commit illegal acts are simply criminals, and should be dealt with under national and international law as such.
Otherwise, we run the risk of a Chief Executive who cries "war" every time he wants to take down Mafiosos, drug rings, Teamsters, Episcopalians, or any other group deemed "enemy combatants," all the while sacrificing our freedoms in the name of "war."