John Yoo, infamous author of the Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of torture on suspected terrorists, slams President Obama for banning torture in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, gravely warning that Obama “may have opened the door to further terrorist acts on U.S. soil.”
Throughout the article, Yoo insists that torture is America’s most effective weapon against terrorists and warns that without it, the U.S. will be incapable of intelligence-gathering:
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. […]
Relying on the civilian justice system not only robs us of the most effective intelligence tool to avert future attacks, it provides an opportunity for our enemies to obtain intelligence on us.
Considering the Bush administration repeatedly insisted its use of coercive techniques was “limited,” it would be a far stretch even for loyal Bushies to suggest that torture is not the one and only method to obtaining information. And as ThinkProgress has made clear again and again, numerous intelligence experts and real interrogators agree that, far from being “the most effective intelligence tool,” torture simply doesn’t work.
Yoo continues his screed by making up facts about Obama’s ban:
The CIA must now conduct interrogations according to the rules of the Army Field Manual, which prohibits coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America. … His new order amounts to requiring — on penalty of prosecution — that CIA interrogators be polite.
Yoo has no idea what he’s talking about. Nothing requires anyone to “be polite” — although the rapport building method has often proved to be interrogators’ most effective technique. And the notion that good-cop/bad-cop would be banned is simply false, Media Matters pointed out earlier this week:
In fact, the Army Field Manual explicitly permits good cop-bad cop interrogations under the name of “Mutt and Jeff” interrogations, which involve two interrogators “display[ing] opposing personalities and attitudes toward the source.” The Field Manual says the “goal of this technique is to make the source identify with one of the interrogators and thereby establish[ing] rapport and cooperation.”
It’s no secret that Yoo is an ardent torture enthusiast: He famously said that only those techniques that inflict pain equivalent to “death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body functions” constitute torture, and last year refused to agree that the president could not order a detainee buried alive. With Obama signaling a clean break from the Bush administration’s terrorism policies, it’s no wonder Yoo is desperate to restore his crumbling torture regime.
Yoo also makes it perfectly clear that Bush himself directly and explicitly ordered torture, including the waterboarding of at least three detainees:
What is needed are the tools to gain vital intelligence, which is why, under President George W. Bush, 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.)