John C. Yoo

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John Choon Yoo served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice during the first term of the George W. Bush administration.

Along with Robert J. Delahunty, Yoo co-authored the controversial Legal Arguments for Avoiding the Jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions, a sweeping 42-page memo concluding that neither the Geneva Conventions nor any of the laws of war applied to the conflict in Afghanistan. This legal memo, developed without input from the military or the U.S. Department of State, was widely condemned as a reversal of established U.S. policy regarding the humane treatment of prisoners. [1]

Despite widespread criticisms of his work, Yoo continues to defend his position, frequently writing aggressive defenses in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.

In 2003, Yoo returned to his position as professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, where he has taught since 1993. He had been on a leave of absence since 2001.

In 2001, Yoo provided legal review on legislation that was to become known as the Patriot Act.

Bush Administration War on Terror Memos

ProPublica notes that "the Bush administration’s "war on terror" - including its controversial policies on detentions, interrogations and warrantless wiretapping - were all underpinned by legal memoranda. While some of those memos have been released ... the former administration chose to keep many others secret, citing security and confidentiality concerns. The decision to release them now lies with President Obama. To help inform the debate - and inject an extra dose of accountability - we’re posting a list of the relevant memos, both public and secret." [2]

Memo authors include John C. Yoo, Steven G. Bradbury, Jay Bybee, James B. Comey, Robert J. Delahunty, Jack Goldsmith, James Ho, Daniel Levin, Patrick Philbin, legal architects (and some internal critics) of the Bush Administration's use of torture and detention policies now being reversed or reviewed by the Obama Administration.

Detention, Treatment and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism

The President's Military Order of November 13, 2001, Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism, § 1(a), 66 Fed. Reg. 57,833 (2001) was referenced by Yoo in

John C. Yoo and James C. Ho, "International Law and the War on Terrorism," University of California, Berkeley, August 1, 2003:
"This paper will identify and discuss two legal questions raised by the war on terrorism that have generated significant controversy among academics and public commentators. First, did the September 11, 2001 attacks initiate a war, or 'international armed conflict' to use the vocabulary of modern public international law? Second, what legal rules govern the status and treatment of members of the al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban militia that harbored and supported them in Afghanistan?"


Career Highlights

  • Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice. Deputy Assistant Attorney General. 2001-2003.
  • Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley, 1993-present.
    • Professor of Law. 1999-present (leave of absence 2001-2003).
    • Acting Professor of Law. 1993-99.
    • Director, International Legal Studies Program, 1999-2001.
  • Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate. General Counsel. 1995-1996.
  • Justice Clarence Thomas. Law Clerk. U.S. Supreme Court. 1994-95.
  • Judge Laurence H. Silberman. Law Clerk. U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 1992-93.


  • Bachelors of Arts summa cum laude, Harvard University. Major in American history. 1989.
  • Juris Doctor, Yale University. 1992.



Professional Associations

Fellowships and Other Associations

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links



Articles & Commentary authored by Yoo

UC Berkeley News

Wall Street Journal

Los Angeles Times

Other Articles by Yoo (no links)

  • "Treaties as Laws?: The Constitutionality of Congressional-Executive Agreements," Michigan Law Review (2001).
  • "Bush v. Gore and Judicial Legitimacy," Chicago Law Review (2001).
  • "The Puzzling Persistence of Process-Based Theories of Federalism," Texas Law Review (2001).
  • "Treaty Interpretation, the Separation of Powers, and the National Missile Defense," California Law Review (2001).
  • "Kosovo, War Powers, and the Multilateral Future," Pennsylvania Law Review (2000)."

Articles & Commentary about Yoo

  • Joe Conason, "From John Ashcroft's Justice Department to Abu Ghraib: The men behind the administration's decision to ignore and undermine the Geneva Conventions in Iraq," Salon, May 22, 2004.
  • Terence Chea, "Berkeley Professor Denounced for POW Memo," Newsday, May 23, 2004: "Some graduating University of California law students used their commencement Saturday to denounce a professor who helped the Bush administration develop a legal framework that critics say led to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. ... About one-quarter of the 270 graduates of Berkeley's Boalt School of Law donned red armbands over their black robes in a silent protest of a legal memo law professor John Yoo co-wrote when he served in the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. ... Outside the ceremony, they also passed out fliers denouncing Yoo for 'aiding and abetting war crimes.' Yoo said beforehand he didn't plan to attend the graduation. ... A petition signed by nearly 200 law students and alumni since Thursday alleges that Yoo's memo 'contributed directly to the reprehensible violation of human rights in Iraq and elsewhere.' ... The student petition urges Yoo to repudiate the memo, declare his opposition to torture and encourage the Bush administration to comply with the Geneva Conventions that protect the rights of prisoners of war. Otherwise, he should resign, the petition says. ... Yoo said he had no plans to resign."
  • Michael Isikoff, "Double Standards?: A Justice Department memo proposes that the United States hold others accountable for international laws on detainees-but that Washington did not have to follow them itself," Newsweek, May 25, 2004.
  • John Barry, Michael Hirsh, and Michael Isikoff, "The Roots of Torture: The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war," Newsweek, May 25, 2004.
  • "Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings: Could Bush administration officials be prosecuted for 'war crimes' as a result of new measures used in the war on terror? The White House's top lawyer thought so", Newsweek, May 25, 2004.
  • Robert Collier, "Furor over UC prof's brief on war: He advised Bush on prisoners' rights", San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 2004.
  • Nick Schou, "F. Yoo! UC Irvine protesters humiliate torture-memo author", Orange County Weekly, Vol. 10 No. 23 February 11 - 17, 2005.