Sunday, July 12, 2009


Why Woo?

John Woo, the lawyer who wrote the legal opinion to justify the use of "extraordinary interrogation techniques," is again in the news. Mr. Padilla, who was the recipient of some of those techniques, is trying to sue Mr. Woo for his opinion that justified them. It has been noted that Mr. Woo was not a high-ranking member of the Justice Department and that the Attorney General did not know that Mr. Woo had been recruited by Bush and Cheney to prepare the covering opinion. It has also been reported that Messrs. Bush and Cheney had a rather low opinion of lawyers and their opinions. It seems to me that it is likely that the Bush-Cheney team chose Mr. Woo as the person to prepare the legal opinion to justify techniques that most people regard as torture. Perhaps they knew something about Mr. Woo's legal philosophy. Perhaps they chose him because they knew he was pliable and would write an opinion to justify actions his bosses wanted to do. It's as though Bush-Cheney regarded lawyers the same way as some people regard priests. If you want to do something you know is rather bad, it eases your conscience if you can get a priest to bless your action, even though you have a contempt for priests and the priesthood. Perhaps a better explanation is that the blessing of the priest gives you cover for your rather unsavory action. In any case, it's important not to go too high in the priesthood to find a willing priest. In the same way, it was important not to go too high in the Justice Department to find a lawyer who would prepare the covering opinion.


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