Here is part of the exchange, which comes from the OPR report released on Friday, and which is reported in a Newsweek piece by Michael Isikoff:
The chief author of the Bush administration’s “torture memo” told Justice Department investigators that the president’s war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be “massacred,” according to a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.
At the core of the legal arguments were the views of Yoo, strongly backed by David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal counsel, that the president’s wartime powers were essentially unlimited and included the authority to override laws passed by Congress, such as a statute banning the use of torture. Pressed on his views in an interview with OPR investigators, Yoo was asked:
“What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? … Is that a power that the president could legally—”
“Yeah,” Yoo replied, according to a partial transcript included in the report. “Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the commander-in-chief’s power over tactical decisions.”
“To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?” the OPR investigator asked again.
“Sure,” said Yoo.
This is not the first time Yoo has defined presidential war power broadly enough to include actions most normal people would consider atrocities. In 2005, Yoo told the Director of Notre Dame Law School’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, in a debate, that the President of the United States could legally order a child to be tortured in front of his or her parents:
In Yoo’s debate with Doug Cassel, the Notre Dame law professor asked: “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?”
John Yoo: “No treaty.”
Doug Cassel: “Also no law by Congress—that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo [while Yoo was a Justice Department attorney].”
John Yoo: “I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.” (Emphasis added.)
CONYERS: Could the President order a suspect buried alive?
YOO: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I don’t think I’ve ever given advice that the President could order someone buried alive…
CONYERS: I didn’t ask you if you ever gave him advice. I asked you thought the President could order a suspect buried alive.
YOO: Well Chairman, my view right now is that I don’t think a President — no American President would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.
CONYERS: I think we understand the games that are being played.