In a lecture on campus Thursday, John Yoo, who helped craft interrogation policies for the George W. Bush administration, said intelligence-gathering and the use of torture are the only way to stop terrorist attacks in the United States.
Yoo, who is currently a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, spoke at the Union about the executive and legislative branches’ different roles as defined by the Constitution. However, during the Q&A portion of the event, several audience members asked about his past as a legal consultant.
Yoo helped craft the CIA’s legal justification for using highly-debated methods of interrogation for al-Qaeda terrorists during the Bush administration. He said there was a great demand for intelligence after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., and because the al-Qaeda terrorist group didn’t have territory or armed forces, the U.S. had to use different tactics to fight them.
“This war is not about who has what fire power at their disposal, which is the way we fought previous wars,” Yoo said. “It’s about getting intelligence.”
Three months ago, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released a report which concluded C.I.A. officials often exaggerated the results of their interrogations to the White House. Interrogations included techniques such as prolongued sleep deprivation and "rectal feeding" as well as waterboarding, the report said.
According to Yoo, CIA directors who interrogated terrorists said the information those interrogations yielded was critical for determining the U.S.’s actions against al-Qaeda. The U.S. hasn’t faced any serious terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001 largely because of interrogations that included torture, Yoo said.
“Of course, many people in society disagree with the decision [to use torture to interrogate people], and I knew when I was making it that it would be a controversial and difficult decision,” Yoo said. “But I still think … it was still the right decision to make.”
Government senior Tasbiha Batool said she thinks Yoo should legally be considered a war criminal because he authorized torture against human beings.
“That’s the epitome of shame, when you do something wrong, and you can’t even admit that you did it wrong,” Batool said. “He said he has no remorse, and he would go back and do it again and, to me, I don’t understand that — just even on a very humanitarian level.”
History graduate student Chris Babits said he thinks just because the U.S. has the resources and ability to use extreme measures of torture doesn’t mean that they should.
“I think that [Yoo] just has a very simplistic view on American history, and he conflates power and greatness, and so this is, in my opinion, abuse of American power,” Babits said. “A responsible president knows when not to use power.”