Tough Interrogations Worked

We should praise the Obama administration, the CIA and especially our armed forces for the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

But we should not forget what made the operation possible: President Bush's counterterrorism policies. Obama administration sources confirm that the coercive interrogation of three al-Qaeda leaders identified the courier who led the CIA to bin Laden.

USA TODAY's editorial page and other critics of enhanced interrogation do not understand the nature of intelligence operations, which aim solely to prevent attacks on the U.S.

Under Bush, the CIA subjected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two other al-Qaeda commanders, Abu Faraj al-Libi and Hassan Ghul, to coercive interrogation methods. Just because Mohammed and al-Libi tried to deflect attention from the courier doesn't undermine the success of interrogation. Their efforts to mislead, when compared with other interrogations, raised red flags. Information from all sources, when pulled together into a mosaic of intelligence, can snap the right targets into focus. In the days after 9/11, no president could afford to foreswear methods that were legal, even though tough, on the mistaken belief that anything beyond questioning amounts to "torture."

Bin Laden would remain on the loose today without this information. But critics of enhanced interrogation would be content to leave bin Laden alive in Abbottabad, Pakistan, planning more attacks on the U.S., so that Mohammed and other al-Qaeda commanders could stay comfortable in U.S. prisons. Why? Because they worry about America's standing in the world.

But neither the Guantanamo prison camp nor harsh interrogations has inspired allies to leave our side, businesses to stop trading and investing here or immigrants to leave our shores. Foreign governments are all too happy to criticize in public, while privately supporting our efforts, which only protect their security, too.

Past U.S. presidents rightly didn't allow foreign opinion to dissuade them from using the most effective means to victory. Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan to end World War II; Abraham Lincoln allowed Sherman's destructive march through the South. Appeasing foreign opinion is no substitute for the need to make the tough decisions that will defeat a determined enemy. Even if USA TODAY has yet to learn this lesson, may our newest president soon begin.

John Yoo is a visiting scholar at AEI.

Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

John
Yoo

What's new on AEI

Expanding opportunity in America
image Moving beyond fear: Addressing the threat of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria
image Foreign policy is not a 'CSI' episode
image The Air Force’s vital role
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.