Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Judges or Lawyers, Who Gets to Say?

Dear Mr. Yoo: 

Commenting on your advising President Bush to direct NSA surveilance without warrents from FISA courts Peter Slevin of the Washington Post quotes you as saying,"It would be inappropriate for a lawyer to say, 'The law means A, but I'm going to say B because to interpret it as A would violate American values. A lawyer's job is if the law says A, the law says A." 

I believe Slevin has exposed a slight but indeed very consequential flaw in your thinking. Let's hope this is just a onetime occurence for you or maybe you've been misquoted but it seems to me that you failed to properly portray our system of government with its three branches marvelously allowing even lawyers to say whatever they want about laws and American values because we ultimately rely on judges - not lawyers -- "to say, 'The law means A . . . " 

Maybe next time you could advise the President to rely on a judge -- like FISA intends -- instead of a lawyer, or even a bright legal scholar such as yourself. That should offer us all some protection from the slight but consequential flaw in your thinking. 

Daniel Brown 


The Episcopal Center @ UGA 

PS: Thanks to for citing Slevin's article 

Scholar Stands by Post-9/11 Writings On Torture, Domestic Eavesdropping 

Former Justice Official Says He Was Interpreting Law, Not Making Policy 

By Peter Slevin 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 26, 2005; Page A0

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