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Obama taps Yale Law dean as State Department legal adviser

Bloomberg / March 24, 2009
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NEW YORK - Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh, a longtime critic of the Bush administration's antiterror policies, was nominated yesterday by President Obama to be the State Department's legal adviser.

As legal adviser, he would provide counsel on international law to the secretary of state and embassies around the world.

In announcing the nomination, Obama called Koh one of the country's leading specialists on public and private international law, national security law, and human rights.

Koh, who received his law degree from Harvard, has been dean at Yale since 2004 and served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor from 1998 to 2001, during the Clinton administration.

Since leaving government service, Koh has written articles critical of George W. Bush's administration's policies regarding the treatment of detainees and other legal issues.

In an article published last year in the Washington Monthly, Koh wrote that he had been "sickened" by an August 2002 Justice Department opinion regarding the use of torture and called it a "disgrace" to the legal profession.

In testimony last September to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Koh said the United States won "universal sympathy" as the victim of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Tragically," he said, the Bush administration "chose to respond with a series of unnecessary, self-inflicted wounds, which have gravely diminished our global standing and damaged our reputation for respecting the rule of law."

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