04/10/2008 03:27 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

John Yoo's Torture Opinions Are Not Just "Opinions"

In some of the responses to a post I wrote about John Yoo and his torture-enabling opinions, some readers raised the issue of "free speech" and "academic opinions" or the like -- comparing holding Yoo criminally liable for these opinions to suppressing and punishing, say, the opinions of a controversial college professor.

Sorry, that is a grossly errant load of mush, and I say that though I ain't no legal scholar.

Mr. Yoo supplied his war-crime enabling opinions in his role as a government lawyer. The Nuremberg Trials established the precedent that a lawyer does not get to enable war crimes and plead "it's just an opinion." That kind of opinion is an act -- an act of enabling war crimes.

Scott Horton at nocomment puts it with characteristic cogent clarity:

"They (the torture memo drafters) also missed the established precedent I have cited repeatedly here, namely United States v. Altstoetter, under the rule of which the conduct of the torture lawyers is a criminal act not shielded by any notions of government immunity." (my bold)

If you care to share your concern about Mr. Yoo and his opinions, you can try sharing them (politely) at a Berkeley event in which he's participating Monday April 14.

Horton, by the way, is hanging up his blogging hat as of today. His immensely authoritative, informed and wide-ranging mind will be missed. Typically, his last regular post is an Andrew Marvell poem, with his own exegesis of it. "(A) green thought in a green shade," to quote the poet.

Appreciations to, where this piece is cross-posted on my blog Brain Flakes

Also at