Thursday, January 29, 2009

Today's Reading Assignment

Professor John Yoo, a member of the law faculty at Berkeley, on the folly of Barack Obama's decision to shut down Guantanamo Bay, and end the "coercive" interrogation of terrorism suspects. A few particularly salient paragraphs from his op-ed, which appeared in today's Wall Street Journal:

"...In issuing these executive orders, Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001. He's also drying up the most valuable sources of intelligence on al Qaeda, which, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden, has come largely out of the tough interrogation of high-level operatives during the early years of the war.

The question Mr. Obama should have asked right after the inaugural parade was: What will happen after we capture the next Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah? Instead, he took action without a meeting of his full national security staff, and without a legal review of all the policy options available to meet the threats facing our country.


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. Mr. Obama has also 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.


It is naïve to say, as Mr. Obama did in his inaugural speech, that we can "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." That high-flying rhetoric means that we must give al Qaeda -- a hardened enemy committed to our destruction -- the same rights as garden-variety criminals at the cost of losing critical intelligence about real, future threats.

We expressed similar reservations in a recent post, noting the headaches associated with moving scores of terror suspects to U.S. jails and (presumably) putting them on trial in our court system. But such concerns haven't deterred the Obama Administration, which is determined to go ahead with its plans.

As a member of the Bush Justice Department from 2001-2003, Yoo played a leading role in drafting anti-terror policies that have helped keep the nation safe for more than seven years. He clearly understands the threat we face--and the challenges involved in bringing terrorists to justice.

Sadly, Professor Yoo has been one of the few legal scholars to publicly question the new administration, and its return to the "law enforcement" method of fighting terror. That speaks volumes about the status of our legal profession--and the officials now running the War on Terror.

Oh that's right. That Bush-era term--"War on Terror" has been removed from the official lexicon. We're still waiting for Robert Gates, Robert Gibbs or even President Obama to give us the politically correct term for what we're fighting now. Last week's war is (apparently) this week's policing problem, both in name and in deed.


Nomenklatura said...

Presumably the only choice in the field, in battle, becomes shoot them, blow them up, or just let them go.

Obama prefers them dead, because then his own hands and those of the people immediately around him are clean. His preferences are those of a moral poseur.

He's still better than Jimmy Carter.

Paul G. said...

I don't believe that interrogation of our enemies and and holding of terrorists outside US territories is really going to end post-Guantanamo.

Furthermore, it is smart of the administration to close the public relations nightmare that Guantanamo has become. It defines us to ourselves and to the outside world. It has become an unneeded liability in our current state of war.

Despite postings on this blog, I believe our current leadership is extremely concerned about our national security. I not naive enough to think I know the entire picture.