While serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General after 9/11, and in his many articles and books before and since then, John Yoo has articulated a sweeping theory of executive power, predicated on a notion of a "unitary executive," the writings of the framers of the Constitution, the wording of the Constitution itself, and the historic exercise of presidential war powers, to assert that the president's power to wage war is all but absolute, subject only to certain political checks, and that it includes the power to commit the country to lengthy battle without Congress' approval, detain combatants in secret captivity, interrogate them according to harsh terms, try and convict them, and eavesdrop on US citizen's communications without a warrant.
Professor Coll asserts that while the president's war powers are broad, they are not wholly exempt from the legislative actions of Congress, the reach of the Judiciary, the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights, or the reach of international law within its place in the U.S. constitutional framework. Both of these former officials appeal to an original understanding of the Constitution and the American Founding to make their case.
On September 15, 2011, the Chicago Lawyers Chapter hosted the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Program featuring this debate. Professors Yoo and Coll debated these issues, which remain relevant not only to the war against terrorists, but to on-going US and NATO action in Libya and in future conflicts as they arise. This event was co-sponsored by The Jack Miller Center for Teaching American Founding Principles and History, the American Constitutional Society, The Constitution Project, DePaul University College of Law, and Ricochet.
- To Propose: Prof. John C. Yoo, University of California Berkeley School of Law and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice
- To Oppose: Prof. Alberto R. Coll, DePaul University College of Law and former Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense for Low Intensity Conflict and former Dean of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College
- Moderator: Mr. James Warren -- Columnist, The Atlantic and the Chicago News Cooperative as well as former reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune
- Introduction: Mr. James C. Dunlop, Counsel, Jones Day
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