Letters: Strong Response to John Yoo Interview
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
Time now for your comments.
Many of you responded to former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo. He gave his interpretation of some rules for treating detainees, including rules that President Bush is about to sign into law. One key element of the law limits the right of some detainees who have been declared enemy combatants. The new rule limits their ability to challenge their detention in court, that principle is called habeas corpus.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Are you saying it would be too expensive to give habeas corpus protection to non-citizens?
Mr. JOHN YOO (Former Justice Department Attorney): Yeah, I think that's what Congress decided when it passed this law last week, is that you could have the possibility of hundreds and hundreds of habeas corpus proceedings and they do impose a cost. You'd have to pull witnesses in from abroad. You have the cost of potentially releasing classified information. All this process does have a cost on our system. It's not free.
AMOS: Our Web site asked Yoo if the government has struck the right balance between fighting terrorism and protecting the innocent.
INSKEEP: The flood of responses included this letter from Leif Clark who says he's a federal judge in San Antonio, Texas: The very idea of holding anyone without trial, without the right to see the evidence that was used to justify naming them an enemy combatant, and depriving them the ability to challenge why they're even there, is so repugnant to a constitutional democracy that I'm shocked this man actually claims to be defending American values.
AMOS: Judge Clark continues: I also quibble with Yoo's contention that U.S. citizens still have the right to habeas review. I read the law. The president can form his own tribunal, which can determine who is an enemy combatant, not just an alien enemy combatant.
Mr. Leif continues: The decision of that tribunal would not be subject to habeas review. How easy it would be for a president to use such a law to make his political enemies simply disappear.
INSKEEP: Jeff Morganthaler sent a different view from Byrne, Texas. War is a rough business, he writes. Masses of combatants try to kill opposing masses by any means available and fairness is never the standard of conduct. He goes on: The injustice of being wrongly confined in a military prison pales in comparison to the agonies that the battlefield visits upon combatants and noncombatants alike. Yes, we should respect the Geneva Conventions, he writes, but fretting over civil rights at Guantanamo is a grotesque misplacement of priorities.
AMOS: Many who wrote in were troubled by this element of U.S. law that John Yoo explained.
Mr. YOO: If you are an enemy combatant, there is no constitutional requirement that you get a criminal trial. You can be held until hostilities are over.
AMOS: Shawn O'Brien(ph), from Durham, North Carolina, wonders how we'll know hostilities are over? He writes: This so-called war is against an idea, a tactic. How can we win? Who is going to surrender? Will there be a peace treaty?
INSKEEP: Finally, we heard from Iraq War veteran Steven Rich(ph). He's a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and he supports the legislation. He writes: Combatants who are our enemy are detained after capture. After all, do we want to release our enemies so they can rejoin their forces and continue to fight us? Absolutely not.
AMOS: To read more letters on the detainee legislation, go to npr.org. And to write your own comments, click Contact Us.
This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.