Last week I watched Frontline’s episode on Cheney’s Law. It was an investigative report about how Vice President Cheney and his minions sought to change the Executive powers of the President. You can watch the full episode on Frontline’s website under Cheney’s Law. For the past couple years, Congress and the media have been questioning the privileges gained by the new powers of the Executive office. It’s a point of contention from both conservatives and liberals alike. And I’m sure it’s something we will be hearing about more often with the upcoming election.
One of the key people involved in writing and enabling the new powers of the Executive office is a Korean born American lawyer by the name of John Yoo. John Yoo could be characterized as a hardworking almost stereotypical first generation Asian American. He emigrated from South Korea at a young age, grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from Harvard, and then law school at Yale. He was an Asian American poised for greatness, serving as clerk to both Laurence H. Silberman at the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. There is a great profile of the man written in the Washington Post But his infamy did not come about till he wrote several helpful memos, that brought Cheney’s ideas of expanding executive powers to the forefront.
In last week’s episode, Frontline interviews and documents John Yoo’s influence with the current Administration. His beliefs in a powerful executive office and his articles and memo’s which perfectly aligned with Cheney’s executive power grab became the basis to interpret the new powers which our current President deems appropriate to use. John Yoo’s influence has thereby led to the incidents of torture at Abu Ghraib and executive privileges afforded by the Patriot Act.
John Yoo is an influential Asian American, but one I cannot say I support. He stands by his beliefs, quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “I’m one of the few people who is willing to defend decisions I made in government.” But I believe his decisions have enabled a presidency which has abused powers far beyond any measure of good, allowing torture and illegal surveillance for a war that the majority of Americans no longer support. That is my opinion, and I’m sure there are others who believe in what he stands for. Yes, I say he is influential. He has the guts to stand by and defend his beliefs. But I wonder Mr. Yoo, will you stand by your beliefs as you watch your country you sought to protect and empower, abuse the rights and freedoms of human beings?