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In BC Speech, Mukasey Defends Yoo

Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave the commencement address Friday at Boston College Law School, acknowledging the controversy over his appearance but nonetheless using the occasion to defend the government lawyers who are now under attack for their roles in drafting legal memoranda condoning the use of torture in interrogating enemy combatants. While Mukasey never mentioned John Yoo or anyone else by name, he referred extensively to Harvard Law Prof. Jack Goldsmith and his "indispensable" book, The Terror Presidency, to argue that, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, government lawyers were under pressure to be less "risk-averse." The text of his speech is published at the BC Law student blog, Eagleionline (and also on the Justice Department Web site). In it, he says:

Today, many of the senior government lawyers who provided legal advice supporting the nation’s most important counterterrorism policies have been subjected to relentless public criticism. In some corners, one even hears suggestions—suggestions that are made in a manner that is almost breathtakingly casual—that some of these lawyers should be subject to civil or criminal liability for the advice they gave.  The rhetoric of these discussions is hostile and unforgiving.

The difficulty and novelty of the legal questions these lawyers confronted is scarcely mentioned; indeed, the vast majority of the criticism is unaccompanied by any serious legal analysis. In addition, it is rarely acknowledged that those public servants were often working in an atmosphere of almost unimaginable pressure, without the academic luxury of endless time for debate. Equally ignored is the fact that, by all accounts I have seen or heard, including but not limited to Jack Goldsmith’s book, those lawyers reached their conclusions in good faith based upon their best judgments of what the law required.

Protests over Mukasey's speech continued up to the day of his appearance. Outside the law school, The Boston Globe reports, 25 protesters from a Catholic peace group gathered in protest, wearing orange prison jumpsuits and some with black hoods over their heads like those worn by detainees during interrogations. Within the campus, faculty and students distributed a handout describing their concerns over Mukasey's visit. While the handout acknowledged Mukasey's "distinguished legal career" and said that the law school was honored to have an attorney general speak at its commencement, it continued:

While he has been Attorney-General, however, the single most noted legal position represented by Mr. Mukasey in his public appearances and statements is his consistent refusal to acknowledge the illegality—under international and domestic law—of waterboarding and other extreme forms of interrogation practiced in the past by the current Administration.

Given this, they wrote, "it was startling" that the school had invited him to speak. At least some faculty members boycotted the event altogether, explaining in a note posted on Eagleionline, "This is still the Boston College Law School of Father Drinan and a host of others who care about social justice." Robert Drinan, of course, was the Jesuit priest who was dean of BC Law until his election to Congress on an anti-war slate in 1970, where he served four terms.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 27, 2008 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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