John Yoo Defends Torture in California Debate: Protesters Disagree

 By MARTIN WISCKOL The Orange County Register

Orange California – John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer whose memos justified coercive interrogation tactics including waterboarding, said at a debate today that the controversial tactics were appropriate in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Three thousand of our fellow citizens had been killed in a deliberate attack by a foreign enemy," he told an audience of several hundred at Chapman University. "That forced us in the government to have to consider measures to gain information using presidential constitutional provisions to protect the country from further attack."

Yoo worked in the White House's Office of Legal Counsel and was among those who wrote the legal memos that provide the CIA with guidelines for interrogation.

Waterboarding, a tactic that simulates drowning, has been condemned by Atty. Gen Eric Holder as torture and, along with other aggressive interrogation techniques, has been banned by President Obama.

Opponents of the practices on hand at today's debate including four people with black hoods reminiscent of those worn by prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and catcallers who interrupted Yoo three times.
But the principal opponents at the debate – Chapman law professors Katherine Darmer and Lawrence Rosenthal – attacked the coercive interrogation techniques from a legal standpoint.

"Prior to the War on Terror, we took the position that waterboarding was torture and prosecuted it as such," Darmer said of the interrogation method.
Darmer and Rosenthal also challenged the effectiveness of the technique – particularly in light of CIA memos recently released that reported that waterboarding was used 183 times in one month against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, and 83 times in one month against Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda operative.
"How effective is a tactic you have to use 266 times?" said Darmer. "We are lawyers. Our job is to follow the law. Torture is illegal and it's also wrong."
Yoo, who was joined in his defense by Chapman law school Dean John Eastman, scoffed at his opponents.

"What I hear from Prof. Darmer and Prof. Rosenthal is that they would, in the same circumstance, rule out any form of coercive interrogation no matter who we help – including and up to Osama bin Laden – no matter what the circumstances," said Yoo, who is now a visiting professor at Chapman law school.

"Was it worth it? We haven't had an attack in more than seven years. Fifty percent of the information that we have on al Qaeda and its workings came from interrogation."

Darmer and Rosenthal argued that much of the information from interrogations came prior to the use of coercive techniques, and that coercive methods are often counterproductive and yield bad information.
"These tactics, not surprisingly, sent us on wild goose chases after false leads," Darmer said.
Obama has said his administration would not prosecute CIA agents who used waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques, but has not ruled out prosecution of the lawyers, like Yoo, who fashioned the legal guidelines for interrogation.
When Yoo first came to the podium to speak today, he was greeted with yells of "war criminal" and "He doesn't belong in the university – he belongs in jail." Yoo responded with a slight smile.

"Maybe you all should conduct the debate," he said. "I'll write questions on cards and hand them in."


Main Media Press & Press Releases Press Coverage John Yoo Defends Torture in California Debate: Protesters Disagree


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.