January 29, 2009
John Yoo, torture, and the continuing saga
John Yoo, formerly in the Justice Department from 2001-03, and now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting professor at Chapman Law School, has an op-ed in Washington Post entitled "Obama Made a Rash decision on Gitmo," and supporting the practice under "under President George W. Bush," when
the CIA could hold and interrogate high-value al Qaeda leaders. On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns. (He could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.)
Yoo continues, contrasting President Obama, who
ordered that al Qaeda leaders are to be protected from "outrages on personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" in accord with the Geneva Conventions. His new order amounts to requiring -- on penalty of prosecution -- that CIA interrogators be polite. Coercive measures are unwisely banned with no exceptions, regardless of the danger confronting the country.
Eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial.
The first thing any lawyer will do is tell his clients to shut up. The KSMs or Abu Zubaydahs of the future will respond to no verbal questioning or trickery -- which is precisely why the Bush administration felt compelled to use more coercive measures in the first place. Our soldiers and agents in the field will have to run more risks as they must secure physical evidence at the point of capture and maintain a chain of custody that will stand up to the standards of a civilian court.
Interestingly enough in light of Yoo's comments regarding layers representing clients, Obama is - - - in a way - - - representing John Yoo. As Politico.com reported and WSJ blog also noted, the lawsuit by Jose Padilla against several in the Bush Administration, including Yoo, is being defended by the Obama DOJ. The complaint is available on the WSJ blog here with background on Yale Law School's involvement on behalf of Padilla here.
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