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Dershowitz Defends Yoo

Here’s an insightful observation from Harper’s Scott Horton today about Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz’s latest defense of the academic freedom of John Yoo, who reportedly may be asked to leave his tenured professorship at the University of California at Berkeley if an internal Justice Department report finds him guilty of ethical violations, as is widely expected:

I marvel over Dershowitz’s new-found perspective on academic freedom. Can this be the same Alan Dershowitz who launched a massive and successful campaign against Norman Finkelstein to deny him tenure at DePaul University because of his criticism of the Israeli government and of Alan Dershowitz himself? In the Dershowitz perspective, academic freedom apparently shields those whose viewpoints are very close to his own, but not his critics.

Dershowitz was one of the early supporters of the idea that torture might very well be a good idea on people we suspect of terrorism — only, of course, in that theoretical ticking time bomb case, where interrogators somehow know that the person they’re torturing could save us all, if they just torture him brutally enough.

None of this has affected Dershowitz’s tenured position at Harvard — but then, he wasn’t writing memos for the Department of Justice authorizing torture and other techniques of brutality that plainly violated domestic and international law.

For now, Yoo is a “Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law” at the illustrious Chapman University School of Law in Orange County, where his friend, Dean John Eastman, had to issue a public apologia [explaining the appointment,](think he got it right or at least made a fair stab at it.) saying that even if most scholars think Yoo got the law wrong in his memos authorizing torture, some disagree, or think he “at least made a fair stab at it.”

That’s a pretty low bar to set for a tenured professor at one of the nation’s top law schools. And if the Department of Justice ever issues that internal Office of Professional Responsibility memo that’s still awaiting Attorney General Eric Holder’s approval, Yoo may find himself depending on the kindness of his friends in Orange County for far longer than he anticipated.

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