Sunday, November 15, 2015

The factual basis for Sharr White's Play Sunlight

While the story of Sharr White's play Sunlight is entirely fictional, the events discussed in it are loosely based on current events. At the heart of the true story stands University of Berkeley Professor of Law John Yoo. 

According to his official UCB bio, "Professor Yoo received his B.A., summa cum laude, in American history from Harvard University. Between college and law school, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Washington, D.C. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Professor Yoo has clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit. He served as general counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995-96. From 2001 to 2003, he served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs, national security and the separation of powers."

Mr. Yoo served as the Deputy Assistant U. S. Attorney General under John Ashcroft in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration. He authored the so-called Torture Memos that addressed the use of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding, was strongly in favor of enhanced executive power, and wrote legal opinions concerning the Geneva Conventions that legitimized the War on Terror by the United States after the attacks of 9/11. Essentially, Woo provided legal arguments to support the Bush administration and CIA's position that the Geneva Conventions ban on torture did not apply to detained members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. 

In 2009, just  two days after taking office, President Barack Obama wrote Executive Order 13491 which revoked all of Yoo's legal guidance on interrogation. 

Last week the story of Sunlight took on new meaning in light of the attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad. Extremists continue to terrorize and governments continue to look for ways to protect civilians. 

If you'd like to make donations to help the people in Paris, Beirut, or Baghdad, consider donating to Doctors Without Borders or the International Red Cross

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