John Yoo, Bush torture memos writer, draws protesters at Calif. appearance

The Sacramento BeeJuly 22, 2010 

John Yoo didn't set out to become the face of torture.

But that's what happened after the former attorney in the George W. Bush administration wrote memos justifying the expansion of presidential powers — including how the government treats suspected terrorists — following the 9/11 attacks.

And it's a label that continues to stick to the 43-year-old Yoo, who has since returned to teaching constitutional and international law at the University of California, Berkeley.

About 10 protesters sporting orange ribbons in a nod to the jumpsuit color of Guantanamo Bay detainees crowded the sidewalk in front of Capitol Plaza Ballrooms on Ninth Street on Wednesday, forcing Yoo to enter through a side door to address a monthly luncheon of the Sacramento Press Club.

"It's just like I'm still in Berkeley," Yoo joked as he began his prepared remarks to about 65 journalists, communications officers and guests at the event, where he publicized his new book, "Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush."

Yoo, who was a U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, remains unapologetic about his interpretation of executive authority during times of war and stands by his memos ultimately leading to waterboarding and other interrogation techniques widely believed to be torture.

"It's a wartime policy question," Yoo said. "American presidents, when they know the threats the country is under, it's no surprise they made the choices they did."

Yoo believes the American government should not have to abide by Geneva Conventions torture guidelines when the enemy is not.

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