This weekend, the Aspen Security Forum hosted a panel discussion about law and the war on terror. Among the speakers were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and John Yoo of ‘torture memo’ fame. They spoke at length about military commissions and the use of torture.
During the discussion, Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, reviewed instances of what he viewed as the Bush Administration’s “utter lawlessness” and he criticized the Obama Administration for not adequately dealing with these issues. John Yoo took issue with Romero’s contention that “lawlessness or broad unconstitutionality” is the biggest threat to American national security, blaming this view on a lack of understanding in the US of the rules of war. He said that the real threat to civil liberties is not the system of enhanced interrogation under the Bush Administration, but rather the targeted drone killings taking place under Obama’s Administration. He credited the use of what he called “coercive interrogation” for acquiring the intelligence that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, adding that he still does not believe that enhanced interrogation methods are torture.
With regard to the continuing use of military commissions, Alberto Gonzales explained that despite Congressional efforts to the contrary, he does not believe criminal trials for all suspected terrorists are necessarily “off the table.” He noted that he prefers this to military commissions, since it is “available and appropriate.”
Other speakers included David Cole from Georgetown University Law Center and Bill Bratton, former chief the LAPD and former commissioner of the NYPD. The panel discussion can be viewed in full on the Aspen Institute’s Website.