Post: Ashcroft Didn’t Sign Off on Yoo Pentagon Torture Memo

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April 4, 2008 2:17 p.m.

More evidence that John Yoo was the most powerful deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s history. The Washington Post reports this morning that when Yoo issued his now-infamous March 14, 2003 memo to the Pentagon, neither Attorney General John Ashcroft, nor his deputy Larry Thompson “were aware.”

As Marty Lederman has pointed out, the fact that the memo was issued under Yoo’s own name is further indication that this was a back door authorization of interrogation practices.

The Post also sheds light on Yoo’s earlier October 23, 2001 legal memo, the one that declared that the Fourth Amendment had “no application to domestic military operations.” The memo “focused on the rules governing any deployment of U.S. forces inside the country ‘in the event of further large-scale terrorist activities’ by al-Qaeda” according to “a Justice Department official.” Just what that sort of operation that might have been discussed or how long that memo remained in effect are unclear. In fact, it’s unclear whether it might still be relied upon:

Although the memo has not been formally withdrawn, the Justice Department yesterday repudiated the idea that there are no constitutional limits to military searches and seizures in a time of war, saying it depends on “the particular context and circumstances of the search,” according to a statement.

All that is clear is that Department officials are insistent that that memo had nothing to do with the warrantless wiretapping program. But as the AP has shown, that appears not to be entirely true.

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