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Must Read Interview with the “Torture Memo” Author

February 4, 2010

The indefatigable John Hawkins recently interviewed John Yoo, one of the authors of what have become known as the “torture memos.”  The memos were actually the legal arguments that the Bush Administration used as the basis for the employment of enhanced interrogation techniques.

The interview can be read in full over at Right Wing News and I encourage you to do so. It’s a must-read. An excerpt:

In the afterword part of your book, you didn’t seem to think highly of putting terrorists captured on the battlefield through the civilian court system. Can you give a brief explanation of why?

I think it’s a terrible idea for a number of reasons and we’re seeing that right now with the proposed trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. It’s not even really whether he’s going to be convicted or not in the end, although you have a much higher chance of an acquittal, I think, in a civilian court. Really, it’s for three reasons.

One is if we’re going to put these folks in civilian court, we’re probably going to start treating them like criminal defendants right away, which means that we’re drying up the most important source of information that we have on Al Qaeda and its pending attacks. The thing to remember is that this is an enemy that has no country, no territory, and no cities or population. They have no regular armed forces. So the only way we can gain intelligence on where they’re going to attack is from their own people. So, if we’re going to start giving them with Miranda warnings and lawyers, we’re going to dry up our best source of information.

The second thing is we’re going to have to open up our files and produce in open court the intelligence sources and methods that we used to capture them. So essentially, the trials have become a trial of the CIA and how did they know where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was, how did they capture him, what intelligence did we get, and so on. That would be an intelligence bonanza for Al Qaeda.

The third thing is that it’s going to create terrible incentives for our men and women who are actually on the battlefield carrying out the fight against Al Qaeda. If they are going to detain Al Qaeda operatives abroad, they have to assume there’s a chance that they might be tried in civilian court. So, they’re going to have to start following the rules that govern our own police officers — but on the battlefield. They’re going to have to read Miranda warnings, let them have access to a lawyer in the battlefield area, collect witness statements, collect evidence on the field — and make sure it gets transported back to New York and Washington. Think about that — they have to do that while they’re also performing their missions, fighting the enemy, and protecting their own safety. I think it’s going to put our men and women in uniform even more in harm’s way than is necessary to beat Al Qaeda.

Please do read the entire interview.

Cross-posted at

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