Drexel appearance by Yoo draws flak

MELISSA GOLDEN / GETTY IMAGES John Yoo, an ex-Justice Department lawyer criticized for his views on waterboarding and other torture tactics, is scheduled to speak at Drexel Law today.
MELISSA GOLDEN / GETTY IMAGES John Yoo, an ex-Justice Department lawyer criticized for his views on waterboarding and other torture tactics, is scheduled to speak at Drexel Law today.
Posted: March 28, 2014

A DECADE later, America's post-9/11 descent into torture is still an open wound for many - as folks are finding out this week at Drexel University Law School.

A Philadelphia lawyers' group is ripping the law school for hosting a talk this afternoon by John Yoo, the ex-Justice Department lawyer who crafted the legal justification for the Bush administration's use of waterboarding and other torture tactics on terrorism suspects.

The National Lawyers Guild called Yoo's slated appearance "deplorable," adding that his legal advice had sparked "negative repercussions in American foreign relations that we are still dealing with a dozen years later."

Drexel Law officials said students had suggested bringing Yoo - an Episcopal Academy grad and a onetime Inquirer op-ed columnist - to speak.

"We are proud to have a diverse array of student organizations that hold a wide spectrum of ideological views and who debate issues vigorously both inside and outside the classroom," Roger Dennis, the dean of the law school, said in an emailed statement. "That's exactly the way an academic institution should operate, and I think it's more than appropriate for the law school to provide a forum for vigorous debate."

The event is not open to the public.

Yoo has been a lightning rod for controversy and protests over his legal opinions that waterboarding and other torture methods on terrorism suspects were not war crimes and that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al Qaeda prisoners. Although his work came to be sharply criticized by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, Yoo landed a position teaching law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Michele Grant, co-chairwoman of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and a Drexel Law alum, said the school shouldn't give Yoo a platform.

"Torture is wrong, it's illegal and it's immoral," Grant said.


On Twitter: @Will_Bunch

Blog: ph.ly/Attytood.com

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