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

Holder will regret his refusal to obey the Constitution
image 'Flood Wall Street' climate protesters take aim at their corporate allies
image 3 opportunities for better US-India defense ties
image Is Nicolás Maduro Latin America's new man at the United Nations?
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 29
    MON
  • 30
    TUE
  • 01
    WED
  • 02
    THU
  • 03
    FRI
Thursday, October 02, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Brown talks teacher tenure

We welcome you to join us as Brown shares her perspective on the role of the courts in seeking educational justice and advocating for continued reform.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, October 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty: A conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz

AEI welcomes you to this Philanthropic Freedom Project event, in which Novogratz will describe her work investing in early-stage enterprises, what she has learned at the helm of Acumen, and the role entrepreneurship can play in the fight against global poverty.

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.
No events scheduled this day.