Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 17 - Torture - full transcript

John discusses the 2015 European Games, the Canadian Senate expenses scandal, and torture with the voice of special guest Helen Mirren.

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Season 2
Episode 17

Welcome, welcome, welcome
to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you so much for joining us.

Just time for a quick recap
of the week.

And we begin
with Vladimir Putin,

the only man who misses the '80s
more than David Lee Roth.

For a year now,
the world has been waiting

for Putin to make his next move
regarding Ukraine.

And last week,
we got a dire warning.

Ukraine's president,

told his military last week
that it must be prepared

for a full-scale invasion
along the border with Russia.

He had earlier
said that summer

was the most likely time
for such an event.

Yeah, well, to be fair,
of course summer

is the most likely time.

Even the people
who live in Russia

don't want to visit Ukraine
in the winter.

But here is why
that won't happen.

Putin is notoriously terrible
at turning up on time.

And if you need proof,
just look what else happened this week.

The summit between the Pope,
Pope Francis,

and Russian president
Vladimir Putin

off to a chilly start.

The Russian leader
was more than an hour late.

That is not cool.

It's not. It's not cool.

He kept the Pope waiting.

Just think about
how rude that is.

He forced the pope
to sit in there

for an hour, making awkward
small talk with God.

"What ? I don't know
where he is.

"Um, how have You been ?
Did You see LeBron's penis ?

"Did You see that ?
Of course,

"of course You did.
You probably made it."

But, look,
this was not a surprise.

Putin was once 14 minutes late
to meet the Queen.

He kept John Kerry waiting
for three hours.

And he has always
been this way.

His own ex-wife once said...

"I remember standing around
in the metro.

"The first 15 minutes of lateness
are OK, half hour also fine.

"But when an hour goes by
and he's still not there,

"you start crying."

Which sounds terrible.
Although, to be fair,

that's also how you could describe
an hour with Vladimir Putin.

But, either way,
it's ending in tears.


what I'm trying to say is,
just relax, Ukraine.

'Cause if you were genuinely
expecting Putin to invade this summer,

just don't have your army
rush to the border.

Or if they do, tell them to bring
a fucking book with them.

But let's move on
to Azerbaijan,

a country
you think about so little,

you didn't even realize
that not only is that not Azerbaijan,

it's not even a land mass,
it's the Caspian Sea.

This is Azerbaijan.

I don't know when
I'm going to get tired of this game,

but it's definitely
not now.

has spent this week

attempting to get
the world's attention.

Well, the first-ever
European Games

have kicked off
with a lavish ceremony

in Azerbaijan's capital,

6,000 athletes
from 50 countries

will compete
over the next two weeks.

Yes, the European Games
have begun.

And don't worry
if you've never heard of them.

That's probably because they've never
taken place before.

But they're
definitely here now.

And they feature
20 heart-pounding events,

including men's
synchronized trampoline,

beach soccer,
and group aerobics,

the athletic pursuit
that answers the question,

"What if an orgy
was somehow platonic ?"

Azerbaijan has even
gone so far

as to create a pair
of ridiculous mascots,

Jeyran the gazelle
and a pomegranate named Nar,

who, let's be honest,
look like refugees

from an Azerbaijani
children's show

called Sexy Horse
and the Child Radish.

Now these games

have reportedly
cost Azerbaijan billions of dollars.

And they're largely seen
as a strategy

by President Ilham Aliyev

to boost
the country's profile.

And the good news for him

is people are now talking
about Azerbaijan.

The bad news
is what they're saying.

There's been a lot of criticism
of their human-rights records

and corruption, high-level corruption

And that criticism
has really intensified

because of these games
putting Azerbaijan

very much in
the international spotlight.

And that was always
going to happen.

Azerbaijan demanding
the spotlight

is like Gérard Depardieu
demanding to be filmed in high-def.

Why would you ask for that ?

Close scrutiny might not
be your best strategy here.

Azerbaijan has been trying

to prevent stories about how repressive
their regime is.

And they've been doing it in the most
repressive-regime way possible.

Dozens of foreign journalists
have been banned by the authorities.

The Guardian was banned.
We were banned.

Khadija Ismayilova,
an investigative reporter,

was arrested
after revealing corruption

among the president's family.

Look, Azerbaijan,
you cannot have it both ways.

You can't scream out to the world,
"Notice me ! Notice me !"

and then decide
to be a dick to journalists.

You're a country,
not Shia LaBeouf.

And finally this week,
we turn to Canada.

It's basically five hockey rinks
surrounded by bears.

The Canadian senate

has recently been reeling
from a political scandal.

The auditor general's report
on senate expenses has been released,

and it flags the accounts
of 30 senators.

Nearly $1 million in spending
has been flagged.

In some cases,
Canadians paid for senators

to go on golfing
and fishing trips,

even hockey tickets
and holidays.

Hockey and fishing trips.

This scandal could not be
any more Canadian

if public money was used to get Drake
to drink maple syrup

on Niagara Falls.

Now this report
comes after roughly 18 months

of auditors examining
senators' expenses,

and they have uncovered
some questionable claims.

Former speaker Noel Kinsella

billed $5,600 to attend a funeral
with his wife.

Terry Mercer charged taxpayers
nearly $3,500

to attend
the 100th anniversary

of the Toronto Curling Club.

A man named Terry

going to a curling club

Kudos, Canada.

You made this scandal
more Canadian

after I explicitly said
that that could not be done.

Well played.
Well played, Canada.

And even though
those lawmakers

say they did nothing wrong,

$5,600 is still
a ludicrous amount

to spend
to attend a funeral,

unless you're going
to some kind of three-day

destination burial
in Barbados.

"Typical Sharon, making everyone
fly down here for this."

And yes, yes,
almost $1 million

of misappropriated
public money is not nothing.

But there was another number
regarding this story

which Canada might want
to take a close look at.

It cost $23.6 million

to conduct this audit,
which only found

less than $1 million
of questionable expenses.

A source tells Global News

auditors were brought
out of retirement

to complete
the 18-month investigation.

The cost of the audit
is so much

because of how thorough
auditors are being,

demanding receipts
for everything

from postage stamps
to breakfasts.

How the hell

do you spend
nearly $24 million

auditing stamps
and breakfasts ?

Canada, I think
you've forgotten what a scandal is.

And may I remind you
that Rob Ford,

your crack-smoking mayor,
is still currently sitting

on the Toronto city council.

But you know what ?
This whole audit was actually worth it

just to provoke
a single moment

with Senator Nancy Ruth.

Because watch her
angrily explain

why she expensed a breakfast
on a business trip

instead of eating the complementary
meal provided on the plane.

And they say
I should have not claimed

because I should have
eaten that breakfast ?

Well, those breakfasts
are pretty awful.

If you want
ice-cold Camembert

with broken crackers...

Now listen. Let this be
a lesson to all politicians.

It is hard to elicit
any kind of public sympathy

when you're uttering a sentence
that includes the word "Camembert."

Because even if
someone's yelling,

"Help !
I'm choking on Camembert,"

it still basically sounds
like they're showing off.

And now this.

And now, newscasters
trying not to swear.

One senior White House official
tells POLITICO Magazine,

"We know we're in for an expletive
storm if we lose the Senate."

Quote, "the most ludicrous
piece of pink expletive

they've seen all year."

And let me sanitize this,
"it really bleeps things up."

"If they don't step up by the end
of the year, bleep 'em."

"Bibi Netanyahu
is chicken bleep."

"You can put a cherry
on a pile of bleep,

but it don't make it
a sundae."

"You are a bleep.
You are a bleeping wet dog."

"I want to bleep
in your bleeping mouth.

I'm going to slap
your bleeping mouth."

"You're going to get
your bleep beat."

- What's the bleep ?
- I can't say that.

I tell you the head story,

you don't know what the fuck
you're talking about.

Whoa, "bleep" !
What are you doing ?


Moving on,
our main story tonight

concerns torture.

It's the thing that happens
to Mel Gibson in all his movies.

Help ! Help !

Help, please !

This little piggy
stayed home.

Wow, that is awful.

Although I will say,

the past decade
of Mel Gibson's life

has made those clips slightly
more enjoyable to watch.

Sadly, torture is not just something
that happens to Mel Gibson.

It's also been practiced
by the United States,

as President Obama
admitted last summer

in a bizarre manner.

In the immediate aftermath
of 9/11,

we did some things
that were wrong.

We did a whole lot
of things that were right.

But we tortured some folks.

That's a weird way
to phrase that.

You sound like you're quoting
a horrifying Andy Griffith episode.

"You see, Opie,
things got a little out of hand

"down at the jail house,
and Barney and I ?

"Well, we tortured
some folks.

"We tortured
those folks good, Ope."

The president's comments
were triggered

by the Senate Intelligence
Committee's massive 6,700-page report

on the CIA's detention
and interrogation program.

The full report
remains classified,

but a 500-page summary
was released in December.

And it's even
actually available on Amazon.

And you should get a copy,

especially if you're looking
for a truly terrible book-club pick.

Because this has got to be
right up there

with a lawnmower-repair manual

or Bill Cosby's memoir,
Time Flies.

You know when time
really flies ?

When you lose consciousness
for three hours

and wake up
in Bill Cosby's limo.

But that's not the point.
That's not the point.

The point is,
clearly most people

have not read this summary.

That's not
particularly shocking.

What is shocking
is that many of those

actually involved
in the programs,

even former director
of the CIA Porter Goss,

have not read it either.

I have not read a word
of the report.

I have not read
a word of any of this stuff.

How have you
not read it ?

You're fucking in it
81 times.

Spoiler alert,
sorry, spoiler alert.

You can do it, though.

Just knock out
a chapter a night.

And if you can't find the time
to sit down and read it,

don't worry, we've made
an audio-book version

with Academy Award-winning
actress Helen Mirren

reading the report for you.

And I'm not kidding
about that.

She did it for us.
Take a listen.

The CIA placed individuals with no
applicable experience or training

in senior detentions
an interrogation roles...

Yes, that's the actual
Helen Mirren

reading the report
that you should have already read

for you, Porter Goss,

so put it on in your car
and fucking listen to it.

And look,
I know no one,

no one wants to read this
or talk about what's in it.

But there are
a few things in here

that we all should
really grapple with.

Because as a recent poll

a lot of us may have some dangerous
misconceptions about torture.

69% of Americans told us

they consider waterboarding
to be torture,

but nearly half, 49%,

said such tactics
are sometimes justified.

And more than half, 57%,

said these
interrogation techniques

often or sometimes provide
reliable information

that can help prevent
terror attacks.

57% of us are confident
that torture works.

That is a lot.
According to one poll,

only 46% of Americans
are confident

in the Big Bang Theory.

Which is crazy,
because that is literally

explained to us every week
in the opening credits

of The Big Bang Theory.

And sadly, there is no sitcom theme
that explains torture to us,

at least,
not since they canceled

Two Guys, A Girl,
and Black Site Prison.

And if you're thinking,

but why are we talking about this now ?
Didn't we pass a law

banning all those enhanced
interrogation techniques ?

Well, it turns out,
no, we didn't.

We checked, and the only restrictions
put in place

were by an executive order
President Obama signed in 2009

requiring interrogations to follow
the Army Field Manual.

And that's it.

And executive orders
can be instantly overturned

as soon as a president
leaves office.

Think about that.

That means
President Lindsey Graham

could undo that
on his first day in office.

To be honest, that just seemed like
a nice thing to do for him.

He can put that image in a frame
and he can look at it

while he's not being president
for the rest of his life.

So... But let's look
at the report together,

because it challenges
a lot of the assumptions in that poll.

First, we did a lot more
than just waterboarding.

We learn that one CIA officer
played Russian roulette

with a detainee.

Another threatened a detainee
with a gun and a power drill.

We learned
at least five detainees

were subjected to so-called
"rectal rehydration,"

or feeding through the rectum
with no medical necessity.

Yes, forced rectal rehydration.
And the details of that,

in a footnote of this report,
are so graphic,

not even Helen Mirren
can make them sound appealing.

Majid Khan's 'lunch tray'

consisting of hummus, pasta
with sauce nuts and raisins

was 'pureed' and rectally infused.

Just try
not to think about that

the next time you eat hummus.

In fact, I feel that I should
preemptively apologize

to the Sabra hummus brand,

because your sales
are about to drop quite noticeably.

And it doesn't stop there.

The report also cites
the tragic case of Gul Rahman,

a completely innocent man
picked up in a case

of mistaken identity who was shackled
to the wall of his cell

and later found dead,
likely from hypothermia.

Now at this point,
we could all probably do

with hearing Helen Mirren
reading something

a little more pleasant.
Maybe some Beatrix Potter.

Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton tail,
who were good little bunnies,

went down the lane
to gather blackberries.

Oh, thank you, Helen.
That's so much nicer.

Please tell me more
about the bunnies.

But while Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail
were on their way to pick blackberries,

Peter was chained to a wall
in Farmer McGregor's basement.

He'd been badly beaten,

and a tray of carrots and raisins
was pureed and rectally infused.

Helen Mirren !

I'm going to say what everyone
has thought about you for years.

You're a monster !

And, look, you may think,
as 57% of you evidently do,

that at least
those tough techniques

provided us
with reliable intelligence.

Well, not so much.

The report's
most damning conclusion

is that the tactics
were ineffective,

despite the CIA's claim
that 20 detainees

subjected to them
shared crucial information,

some of which led
to Osama Bin Laden.

Our staff reviewed
every one

of the 20 cases.

And not a single case
holds up.

Yeah, torture
is one of those things

that is advertised as something
that works, but doesn't,

like a Ford truck,
or those weird bottles

of Horny Goat Weed available
at your local bodega.

But maybe the reason
that so many of us

innately believe
that torture works is because it does,

on TV, all the time.

Look at 24. Jack Bauer repeatedly
saved American lives

while behaving like this.

You're going to tell me
what I want to know,

or you're going to start
losing your fingers one by one.

Where is the nerve gas ?

You are going to tell me !
What is happening at 8:00 ?

You probably don't think that I could
force this towel down your throat.

But trust me, I can.

Emmy for best drama, 2006.

Beat The Sopranos.
Great show.

And look,

look, torture works on 24
and in movies

because it has to.

It's a dramatic device
to move the plot along.

But ask terror experts
and they'll tell you

it's one of those movie tropes

that's got no basis
in real life,

like a wedding
being interrupted,

or someone this handsome
feeling sad,

or this character
being part Asian.

It works because
they just say it does,

and we're supposed
to take it.

And yet,
even supposedly smart people

like Antonin Scalia,

an ill-tempered bullfrog
in a robe,

they cite 24 as evidence
that torture could be justified.

He said...

"Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles...

"He saved
hundreds of thousands of lives...

"Is any jury
going to convict Jack Bauer ?

"I don't think so."

And look, Justice Scalia,

just because Kiefer Sutherland
does something on camera

does not mean
it's a great idea,

unless, of course,
that thing is him

drunkenly running
into a Christmas tree.

That would explain everything.

Yes, yes.

On December 25th,

we should no longer
celebrate the birth of Christ.

We should celebrate that.

And, look, it's clearly
not all 24's fault.

Some people continue
to insist that our tactics saved lives,

citing two particular cases.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

and Abu Zubaydah

the overwhelming majority

of reports on Al-Qaeda.

Both of them
were uncooperative at first.

The application of enhanced
interrogation techniques,

specifically waterboarding,

especially in the case
of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,

is what really persuaded him
he needed to cooperate.

Look, I know
what you're thinking,

that is a reasonable statement
from a famously reasonable man.

But let's just
look at those two examples.

First Abu Zubaydah.

The CIA have claimed
that subjecting him

to enhanced interrogation
disrupted two plots.

But it turns out,
he disclosed those plots

before he was waterboarded.

And the report
now tells us

that they were judged
to be "infeasible", those plots,

and in one case
"hilariously infeasible."

Because it concerned
two would-be terrorists

who had, and this is true,

proposed a plot based on
a satirical Internet article

entitled How to Make an H-bomb,

which instructed people
to enrich uranium

"by placing it in a bucket
attaching it to a six foot rope,

"and swinging it around your head
as fast as possible for 45 minutes."

And we all know,
that is not how to make an H-bomb,

that is the brewing process
for Bud Light Lime.

That's a fact.
That is just a scientific fact.

It's how they do it.


as for
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,

he did give us information

after he was waterboarded.
That's true.

But it's worth noting

the quality of that information.

He told investigators

that he had sent
Abu Issa al-Britani to Montana

to recruit
African-American Muslim converts.

The FBI scrambles,

launches a massive investigation
in Montana

trying to find these supposed
black Al-Qaeda operatives.

But the FBI found nothing.

KSM was lying.

Yeah. Of course he was lying.

What part of the phrase, "recruiting
African-American Muslims in Montana"

did not make you
call "bullshit" instantly ?

Even this week,
we've learned

that the most famous
black person from Montana

may actually be white.

And, look, none of this,

none of this is to say

that we don't
need information from detainees.

But if you want
to see how to get it without torture,

just watch a former FBI agent,
Jack Cloonan,

who worked
in the Bin Laden unit,

show you how it's done.

You want to be able
to build a rapport with somebody.

You are their salvation.

Because their life
as they know it is over.

"Is there something
I can do for your kids ?

"You concerned about them ?

"You want them educated ?
I'll get them educated.

"What do you want ?

"Tell me what you want.

"Script for me
your exit strategy.

"How do you extricate yourself
from this terrible situation,

"by the way,
that you put yourself in ?

"Now you can't go back home.

"Can you ?
No, so let's make peace with that.

"Let me help you
find the strategy

"to give you a life."

Holy shit.

I would tell that man
any of my secrets.

"The fun name I have for my glasses
is Fixy McPeepers.

"I once tried to bleach my anus
with Crest White Strips.

"Every day at 2 p.m.
I cheer myself up

"by silently eating four marshmallows
from a bag at my desk,

"and I call it
a marshmallow party.

"Please stop looking at me !

"I'll tell you anything !"

So look,
there is no proof

that torture does any good,
but there is real proof

that it does serious harm
to America's image overseas.

References to American torture
show up everywhere,

from terrorist
recruiting tools

to statements
from North Korea,

who've called our techniques
"brutal medieval."

And the most insulting thing
about that

is that knowing them,
they probably meant it as a compliment.

And the problem is,
the rules we have on the books

to stop us from returning
to the dark days of torture

are in one easily-reversible
executive order.

Now as it happens,
John McCain and Diane Feinstein

have proposed an amendment
due up for a vote next week

which puts
the most basic parts

of the president's
executive order into actual law.

And we should pass that,
because if we don't,

there is no guarantee
that the next president

will uphold the ban.

In fact, we asked
all 14 declared candidates

whether they would consider
overturning the president's order,

and only four of them
told us definitively

that they would
definitely keep it in place.

As for the rest,
they either ignored us

or avoided
answering directly,

which is very frustrating

because we need
that information badly from them.

And the problem is,
we can't torture them to get it

because as this report
more than proves,

that doesn't fucking work !

And look, look,

here's the thing.

If enhanced interrogation
were not torture, which it is,

and even if torture did work,
which it doesn't,

America should not
be a country that tortures people.

Because it is brutal,
it is medieval,

and it is beneath us.

And when the rest of the world
thinks about America,

they should not
think of this.

Because that's not
what this country's about.

They should be thinking
about this.

That would
explain everything.


There is nothing
more American

than a drunk man
jumping into a Christmas tree.

And now this.

And now, newscasters
not trying not to swear.

These are good,
decent, steady men

that don't go around
flipping people off

or screaming "fuck you"
at the top of their lungs.

I suggest that...

He taught me
how to count change.

He taught me how
to make sausage.

He taught me how
to fuckin' wake up...

This chick is so batshit,
I mean, excuse me !

Bat... you know what.
Excuse me.

You know, you do that one more time,
you're fuckin'...

You shouldn't be...
oh, shit !

Why'd he stop ?

- We shouldn't be talking about it.
- Exactly.

- It's a stupid fuck, a stupid debate.
- Wow, did you...

We're only acting here
and putting on shit. We have nothing...

Welcome back to Hardball.


And finally tonight,

just a quick update
on Jack Warner,

the former
FIFA vice president

currently under investigation
for allegedly taking

a $10 million bribe.

Last week, we responded
to his televised message to Trinidad,

The Gloves Are Off,

by buying airtime
on the same network

to deliver our response...
The Mittens of Disapproval Are On.

It actually aired
in Trinidad and Tobago

on Tuesday night.

And it left Jack Warner
with two choices,

one, completely ignore it

and focus on preparing
his legal defense,

or two, do this.

I don't need any advice
from any comedian fool

who doesn't know anything
about this country

to tell me what files to release
or what not to release

That is none of his bussiness
and I take no instructions from him.

Wait, wait !


"Comedian fool" ?

That's not an insult,
that's literally my business card.

I've got to say,
if you really want to insult me,

you've got plenty
to work with here.

Why not say I look like the reflection
of Harry Potter in a doorknob ?

Come on,
I'm doing your job for you.

And second,
I have to ask,

what was that music
behind you ?

We didn't add that,
it was in the original.

And believe me,
it continued to build.

I don't take instructions
from an American

at this point in time.

The point
I want to make to you however

is however much
we may disagree as a people

however much
we may fight among ourselves

we do it among ourselves
within our borders.

But against outsiders,
we have to stand united.

Oh, he is really good
at making videos.

Because that music
makes anything sound better.

We looked it up,
and it's a song called Ash.

And if you're wondering
how we found it,

it turns out, this is true,

if you type the phrase, "epic
and dramatic music" into Google,

it's the first result
that pops up.

It's the first one !

I will tell you one thing

that Jack Warner
is definitely not guilty of,

and that is overthinking
his music choices.

And listen, listen, Trinidad,

I am sorry
you got dragged into this.

You're an amazing country.

Tobago, not so much.
But the point is,

the point is, I am sorry
you got caught in the crossfire here,

because this should be
between me and Jack Warner.

So I'd like to give him
another message, if you don't mind.

Mr. Warner,
we meet again, old friend.

It is I, the comedian fool.

Jack, we're a lot alike
you and I.

We both know this particular music
makes anything we say

sound a lot more impressive
than it actually is.

And we both have our flaws.

People have said
I'm not a good listener, for example.

Just as I've said
that you diverted $750,000

in Haiti-relief funds
into a bank account you controlled.

And sure, we may both
dispute those charges,

but my point is,
neither of us is perfect.

And so to you,
I say this, Jack,

if you really want to continue
to trade shit-talking videos

with increasingly high
production elements,

then consider your challenge
accepted, my friend.

Because you have
magnificent music under yours.

Well played.

Well, I see your music choice
and I raise you fire !

Your move, Jack !
Your move !

Either respond to me
by this time next week

with a more spectacular
video than this,

or I will accept
your graceless defeat.

That's our show !

Our thanks to Helen Mirren !

Good night !


Season 2
End of episode 17