Memo by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques. Alex Beam joined Jim and Margery to talk about another memo by Harvard professor David Barron.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Alex Beam On A Legal Memo Causing Headaches For Harvard Law Professor David Barron

May 12, 2014

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam joined Jim and Margery for his regular Boston Public Radio Open Mic segment on Thursday. Beam talked about the nomination of Harvard Law professor David Barron to the First Circuit of the US Court of Appeals. Some — like the American Civil Liberties Union and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul — are protesting Barron's nomination by the Obama administration due to his authorship of a legal memo about the use of lethal force against American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.

Beam is the author of American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Catholic Church. Read more of his work here, and follow him here on Twitter.

Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Beam's responses were edited where noted (...).

You have a semi-obsession with David Barron, Harvard Law professor. His reputation seems to be tripping up his nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

I have a deep prejudice here that dates back several years. This whole story was broken by Charlie Savage, who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Boston Globe for his work on George Bush's signing statement. (...) He broke the story that Barron and Marty Lederman co-authored a memo at the Department of Justice's notorious Office of Legal Council authorizing (...) a legal cover so they could go kill this incredibly bad guy, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen.

I am really cynical and dark, and I am obsessed about this. I'm the first Globe writer ever to write about this. When [gubernatorial candidate, former Globe columnist] Juliette Kayyem — Mrs. David Barron — was in the building. (...) I went to tremendous lengths to avoid speaking to her.

(...) My deep-seated prejudice here is, Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. These [Pres.] Bush guys from the Office of Legal Counsel — you know, the Bush-Cheney terror [memos] — paid a high price for writing memos like these — the notorious torture memo, for instance, possibly written by John Yoo. I felt this was insane hypocrisy — given that John Yoo (...) had to go into hiding when he left the George Bush administration. (...) At Berkeley he's a prestigious professor at Boalt Hall — which is University of California-Berkeley's Law School. They were trying to strip him of his tenure.

You wrote, 'So if Yoo is a war criminal, then please explain the status of Harvard Law School professor David Barron, and Georgetown University professor Marty Lederman.' So, liberals are two-faced in nominating Barron. Are you aware the ACLU opposes Barron's nomination?

Of course I'm aware of it!

So they're not hypocritical here then, are they?

My beef is with the media. The media's been silent up until now.

Academia has been, too.

Barron is like a god over at Harvard Law School. He did a project for [Harvard President] Drew Faust. I'm sure he's a good guy. Let's not get into the holes of my argument. (...) As I pointed out in that column I'm in a complicated position because I approve of killing bad guys. I always have. I thought Bush and Cheney were on the right track. Kill the bad guys, torture them, I don't have a problem with that.

(...) I'm just saying, New Yorker: where's your big takeout on David Barron, where's your big takeout on renditions under the Obama Administration? I really do feel strongly about this. I think this is two-faced, media b.s.

I think it's not unreasonable to see a drone strike which kills somebody outright as different than waterboarding. Death, as opposed to torture.

I don't really have a problem with drone strikes. I feel that —

On American citizens?

— I feel that that's what people haven't debated about the Barron-[Lederman] memo, the notion that you can kill an American citizen. That's a super-big deal, and that should go by the Supreme Court at the very least.

Where are you on this with Juliette Kayyem, who's running for governor?

I've never met her.

But you're not casting aspersions on her candidacy, are you?

Not at all. She was a Pulitzer finalist as a Globe columnist. She was an excellent Globe columnist. Surprisingly, she didn't write about this issue, eyeball roll.

David Bernstein wrote she had nothing to do with Barron's memo, although liberals may hold it against her.

(...) Naturally, the Yoo and the [Jack] Goldsmith torture memos were leaked immediately. (...) The big hole in my argument is that we haven't seen the 60-page memo, the Barron memo.

If it turns out there's nothing that should be troubling, the Obama administration should at least release it to members of the US Senate.

I still think that in what purports to be an intellectual argument, it's a big hole to discuss something you don't know. Maybe [the Barron memo] said it's a really bad idea to kill this American citizen, and we're changing the Constitution in a really bad way!

What did you do when you had to walk by Kayyem's desk at the Globe, when you both worked there?

I never introduced myself.

You hoped she would not know who you are.

My column is buried in the back of the G section. I assumed no one read it.

Alex Beam hides out from Juliette Kayyem when he criticizes her and her husband. Dan Shaughnessy trashes players and goes right back in the locker room the next day!

He's a man's man.

To hear Beam talk about word snobbery, and hear his 45-second explanation of profit margins at taco stands, click the audio link below.

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