Attorney behind NSA domestic wiretapping defends his views

John Yoo

John Yoo

The former US Justice Department lawyer who authored legal memos sanctioning the legality of the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program has defended his views. John Yoo, who on 9/11 was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, has penned an article in The Wall Street Journal, in which he voices disagreement over a recently published US government report that criticizes the wiretap program’s secrecy and dubious legal basis. The report was authored by the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It says that the Bush administration’s decision to keep NSA’s domestic wiretap program secret even from senior Department of Justice and intelligence officials hampered the broader intelligence community’s ability to use the program’s output, and subverted the government’s ethical standing in the so-called “war on terrorism”. But Yoo, who now teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that NSA’s domestic wiretap program represents a wartime reaction resembling those of several past US presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt. The latter “authorized the FBI to intercept any communications, domestic or international, of persons suspected of subversive activities […] including suspected spies”, in the wake of America’s entry into World War II. Furthermore, the former Justice Department attorney admitted that indiscriminate monitoring of all traffic between, for instance, US and Pakistan or Afghanistan involves “the filtering of innocent traffic”, but likened it to the principle behind police roadblocks or airport screening. But Yoo’s article, which is available here, does not address the criticism of the program’s “excessive secrecy” in the recent government report.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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