2005 Archive

Professor John Yoo: In Era of Terror, Presidents Must Be Free to Act

Professor John Yoo contributes to the continuing debate about the U.S. legal strategy for fighting terrorist opponents in a new book published by the University of Chicago Press. In The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11, Yoo expands on a theme he has sounded in lectures, essays and op-ed pieces: that since the earliest days of the republic, the Constitution has afforded presidents wide leeway to use military power to answer foreign threats-and that this executive power is more necessary today than ever.

Yoo says that his book makes the case that the legal issues raised by the war on terrorism "are novel, complex and unprecedented. They range from the use of force, to targeting, to the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants who do not fight on behalf of a nation." Yoo, who was serving in the Department of Justice on 9/11, challenges the view that Congress must be consulted before presidents resort to military force. Such potentially time-consuming consultation could be deadly in a world of rapidly developing threats, he says.

"The September 11, 2001, attacks demonstrate that the costs of inaction in a world of terrorist organizations, rogue nations and more easily available WMD are extremely high," Yoo says-including the possibility of a direct attack on the United States and the deaths of thousands of civilians.