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Tags: Al-Qaida | Barack Obama | CIA Torture Report | Exclusive Interviews | Homeland Security | Middle East | Steve Malzberg Show | War on Terrorism

John Yoo: I Was Never Asked to Testify for Torture Report

By    |   Thursday, 11 December 2014 04:35 PM

John Yoo, the ex-Justice Department official who drafted the so-called "torture memos" that guided the CIA in grilling terror suspects, says he would have happily testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that issued a damning report about the controversial interrogations, but was never asked.

"This committee, the [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein committee, chose not to interview anybody. They did not interview any of the government officials including myself. Didn't even call, didn't even ask me. I would've been happy to testify," Yoo said Thursday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"This means that the report has to be bias and flawed. It's as if in a court a judge had said, 'OK, the prosecution gets to make its case and we're not going to call any witnesses and the defense never gets to show up.'"

The report — released Tuesday by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Feinstein — says the CIA misled Congress and White House officials about its interrogations of terror suspects and mismanaged a program that was far more brutal and less effective than publicly portrayed.

It told of techniques such as waterboarding, rectal feeding, forced nudity, and extended periods of confinement in a coffin-sized box in attempts to get information from suspected terrorists after the 9/11 attacks.

Republicans counter that Democrats knew about and approved of the techniques and are doing an about-face and slamming the CIA for political purposes. They say the release of the report endangers Americans all over the world.

CIA Director John Brennan admitted the agency made mistakes and was not prepared for the interrogation of terror suspects a decade ago — but has reformed its policies.

Brennan said the ultimate effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation techniques" used to gain information from suspects is "unknowable" even as he said the program overall provided useful information that thwarted attacks and saved lives.

Yoo told Steve Malzberg that the use of the controversial techniques absolutely saved lives — and denied conclusions in the report stating that no useful anti-terrorism data was gained.

"Take the most important example, the [Osama] bin Laden operation. One of the key claims of the Feinstein report is that none of this interrogation yielded any intelligence at all. This is flatly wrong if you look at what happened with bin Laden," he said.

"We found bin Laden because we were able to identify the courier who led us there. Now, according to the committee, the courier's name was in the CIA database of a suspected al-Qaida member, but that doesn't matter. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible al-Qaida suspects in the CIA database.

"It was only the interrogations of people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al-Qaida leaders that allowed us to pinpoint the exact person, pull that name out of the database and follow him because he was bin Laden's courier."

Yoo said if the Senate report — which cost a whopping $40 million to prepare — is to be believed, the courier would have been unmasked regardless of "enhanced interrogation."

"Yeah, that might've happened 10-20 years from now, but with the need for actionable intelligence after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA was able to use those techniques and they got intelligence that led us to find and kill bin Laden," he said.

"The biggest flaw, the fundamental flaw, of this report is that it's not done in a bipartisan way. It's not Republicans and Democrats.

"Every investigation by Congress into the intelligence agencies in our past, the 1975 Church Committee, the 1987 Iran-Contra Report, were both done with Republicans and Democrats because otherwise you can't trust that one party isn't going to manipulate the results."

Yoo, a professor at California's Berkeley Law School who was the Justice Department's former deputy assistant attorney general, said nobody else from the agency was interviewed by the Senate Committee, even though its reports named names in assigning blame.

"Many of the other people named in the report would've [testified]. I was just referred to [in the report], but there are people who are accused of violating rules, violating the law, violating protocol," he said.

"But now … CIA directors and other people are coming forward to show that many of the things in the report aren't true."

Yoo,  author of "Point of Attack: Preventive War, International Law, and Global Welfare," published by Oxford University Press, said the committee conveniently sidestepped several facts.

"We've been able to capture or kill almost all of the original membership, leadership of al-Qaida," Yoo said.

"The Feinstein Report [is] actually quite silent on how that happened because it's an inconvenient fact for Sen. Feinstein [that] the information that led to all those successes was produced mostly by the interrogations."

"Our legal judgment was correct then and it's still correct. Of course, if the facts were different, I might be open to changing my mind. But I don't think what you see in the Feinstein Report is reliable because of its one-sided biased nature."

He charged that in 2002, soon after the 9/11 attacks, Feinstein "was saying things in public that we were asking the CIA to do, things that we'd never done in the past because of the new threats.

"Now, this is just an effort by Democrats to wiggle out of responsibility for policies that they were briefed on that they implicitly approved that they funded, but they don't like it.

"This really reflects something deeper about many Senate Democrats, is that they fundamentally are hostile to the CIA and our intelligence agencies and I don't think have the stomach for the long-term fight against our terrorist enemies abroad."

Yoo believes Senate Democrats are two-faced in that they criticize the CIA for "enhanced interrogation" while President Barack Obama uses drones to kill the nation's enemies.

"I wonder if … Senate Democrats are going to go out there and accuse President Obama of being a war criminal?" he said.

"I would say, let's count up the numbers … Waterboarding is used on three al-Qaida leaders and that's it. Drones not only kill al-Qaida leaders, which is a bad idea — not because I have any sympathy for them but because we're losing intelligence they have — but it kills hundreds of civilians who are nearby.

"The drone attacks, from what I've read, have killed more than 500 innocent civilians near the targets and I would ask all these critics of the [George W.] Bush interrogation policy, 'Do you really care about human rights if you're willing to turn a blind eye to those kinds of figures? Or are you doing it just because it's for partisan support for a Democratic president?'"

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John Yoo, the ex-Justice Department official who drafted the so-called "torture memos" that guided the CIA in grilling terror suspects, says he would have happily testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that issued a report, but was never asked.
John Yoo, torture report, Dianne Feinstein, waterboarding, drones, civilians, 911
Thursday, 11 December 2014 04:35 PM
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