Yoo: Obama Should Have Tortured Bin Laden

The infamous UC Berkeley professor says the al Qaeda leader should have been water-boarded, and not killed.

An odd alliance formed last week in the wake of Osama bin Laden‘s death. Some conservative and liberal commentators joined in criticism of President Barack Obama and the US Navy SEAL‘s operation, contending that more should have been done to capture the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and avoid killing him. On the left, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald argued that the al Qaeda leader should have been treated as a criminal, not a warrior, and apprehended and brought to the United States to be tried in American courts. Greenwald also noted that bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot in the head, although the SEALs reportedly said the terrorist leader was reaching for a gun.

Greenwald’s reaction was not unusual for liberals grappling to make sense of the country’s euphoria over bin Laden’s death. A headline from the left-leaning magazine Good seemed to sum up the uncomfortable feelings: “Since When Are Liberals Cool with Shooting an Unarmed Man in the Face?”

Criticism from the right, meanwhile, was led by UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo, a key architect of the Bush administration’s torture program. In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Yoo also contended that bin Laden should have been captured. But for a different reason. Yoo wrote that Obama should have ordered that bin Laden be taken to Guantanamo Bay and subjected to Bush-era interrogation policies. In short, the tenured Cal professor wanted bin Laden to be water-boarded.

Not surprisingly, Yoo and other Republicans also argued that the bin Laden operation vindicated the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program. They contended that a nugget of information gleaned from 9/11 operational mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during “tough” interrogations eventually led to bin Laden’s whereabouts. Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times. Yoo and the Republicans, however, failed to note that the torture sessions also resulted in numerous false leads and time wasted, not to mention international embarrassment.

In addition, US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, refuted Yoo’s claim. Feinstein said locating the world’s top terrorist was primarily the result of “red teaming,” a concerted effort by US intelligence to verify information — something that was glaringly absent in the run-up to the Iraq War. She also said that torturing prisoners was unwarranted and unnecessary. “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used,” Feinstein said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Regardless, a great majority of Americans have come to the conclusion that Obama did the right thing. A poll conducted by Rasmussen, which is widely considered to be conservative-leaning, found that 86 percent of respondents approved of the president’s decision in the bin Laden shooting. An NBC poll showed that 80 percent of Americans thought that killing bin Laden was justified. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll revealed that Obama’s job approval rating jumped from 43 percent in late April to 51 percent late last week.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans also agreed with the president’s decision to not release photos of the dead terrorist leader, the NBC poll showed. In an interview with 60 Minutes, President Obama explained his decision-making, saying that he had no desire to gloat. “We don’t need to spike the football,” he said. The White House had been considering releasing the photos in order to quell conspiracy theories that bin Laden is still alive. But the administration noted that the gruesome pictures could spark a backlash in Muslim countries and put US armed forces at risk.

The president also disclosed that his national security team was deeply divided over whether to go ahead with the raid in Pakistan, because there was no concrete evidence that bin Laden was in the targeted compound. But Obama said that he ultimately decided that the risks of a failed mission were outweighed by the possibility “of us finally getting our man.” He acknowledged, however, that the mission might have been “the longest forty minutes” of his life.

Three-Dot Roundup

Environmentalists and neighborhood groups who object to the Oakland Zoo‘s expansion plans say they will appeal the city planning commission’s approval of the project to the city council. … Oakland City Attorney John Russo made it official last week, announcing that he is resigning in June to become Alameda’s city manager. … Some Oakland unions said they will not agree to compensation concessions this year unless the city’s police union agrees to contribute 9 percent to its pension plan, the Oakland Tribune reported. Mayor Jean Quan has proposed mass layoffs and mandated furlough days if the unions refuse to agree to cuts. … The University of California is considering a proposal to charge higher tuition at more popular campuses, such as Cal and UCLA, than at less popular schools in an effort to raise funds for the cash-strapped system, the LA Times reported. … California’s “Dream Act,” which would allow illegal immigrant college students to have access to private education grants, won approval in the state assembly and is expected to pass the senate and be signed into law by the governor. The new law would apply to undocumented students who graduated from California high schools. … Governor Jerry Brown‘s plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies throughout the state is unconstitutional because it would use local tax dollars to close the state’s budget deficit next year, the nonpartisan Legislative Counsel’s Office said. … Brown’s administration also reported that state tax revenues are $2 billion higher than expected this year. However, the governor downplayed the revenue surge and said it would not affect his budget plans. … Oakland urban farming pioneer Novella Carpenter plans to reopen her urban farm stand after raising the $2,500 needed for city permits. Carpenter also wants to reform city rules to make it easier for urban farmers to raise livestock and slaughter it on their property. … And the California Public Utilities Commission approved a plan to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Northern California to restore a decimated salmon run.

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