Ex-Rice Aide Blasts Torture Program

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 10:34 am

As to my can-there-be-a-decent-right question about torture, Philip Zelikow, the counselor to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, provides a compelling answer in the affirmative. His post at Shadow Government is a delicate and thoughtful rejection of the Bush administration’s architecture of torture. He makes short work of the legal reasoning on display from the Office of Legal Counsel’s Steven Bradbury, and states that he pushed back against it:

At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn’t entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that:  The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department’s archives.

To ask an impolite question of Zelikow: why didn’t he resign?

I know, resignations of senior officials are few and far between. But it seems like this is one of those issues — the entrenchment of a widespread system of abusive interrogations that are, you acknowledge, most likely illegal — that merits walking out the door. I’m not trying to play the critic, especially after he’s offered such a candid, honest view of his tenure. Nor do I mean to imply that resignation is an easy thing — particularly if you’re trying to change the system from within.  But it still seems like a question worth asking.

Then there’s this bottom-line assessment:

Opponents should not overstate their side either. Had a serious analysis been conducted beforehand (it apparently was not), my rough guess is that it might have found that physical coercion can break people faster, with some tradeoff in degraded and less reliable results.

If so, that doesn’t sound like the opponents would be overstating their case at all. Acquiring unreliable intelligence isn’t valuable, no matter how rapidly it’s collected. And it’s certainly not valuable if the cost is breaking the law and violating someone’s basic rights, even a terrorist’s.

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Comments

10 Comments

GTFOOH
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 10:41 am

These Johnny-come-lately pillars of Justice like Phillip Zelikow and Richard Armatage are worse than people like Cheney. Because they could have stopped it!


Jake
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 11:31 am

Zelikow performed a whitewash of our failed govenrment as director fo the 9/11 commission. Why should he have exhibited qualities of menschness as a Bush appartchik by resigning. The 9/11 Commission, like the Warren Commission, obscured the truth and thus provided the American people degred and unreliable information.


theod
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 11:34 am

Resignation for ethical reasons doesn't seem to work for American political types. It effectively takes you out of the govt for life, since your former supporters have lost faith in you forever and your new-found friends on the opposing side don't fully trust you either. So unless they can be confident of maintaining ambitions in the private or academic sectors, people with a shred of conscience rarely seem to use it dramatically through resignation. See Sec of State Cyrus Vance, for example.

Zellikow has proved to very much like his govt connections. If he can prove his memo exists he will have played this game cleverly.


Jake
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 11:34 am

They were enablers. Powell of course being first among them becuase he knew better and yet allowed his partisan loyalties to sway his judgment. The ooze of the unlawful war in Iraq – and it appears from the timing the torture was aimed at providing a link between 9/11 and Iraq in order to justify the war – will tarnish all who touched it. Including Tony Blair,


Dick Hertz
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

Just another moral failure from the Right. Why get off the gravy train with biscuit wheels if its just a bunch of sand n——- getting beaten to death for no good reason? Why stop the VP from his fix of snuff porn to fwap to in the Naval Observatory? To the victor goes the spoils bizches! The Bush man has a Man Date.


Dennis
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

Even an “attempt” for this nation to try its own war criminals would do more to bolster the image of the US around the world than anything else that can be done.

The question is does Congress have the political stomach and ethics for it?


gandhi
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

Zelikow told the Annual Lecture, Houston Journal of International Law, on April 26, 2007, that “good intelligence can be gained by physically tormenting captives”.

He said improved interrogation methods have been developed through “a process of painful trial and error”! He said it was ” tempting for some local governments to let the Americans do the distasteful things that protect their people too.” He called for such governments to abandon the rule of “traditional” law. And he argued in favour of “the quite defensible policy of renditions”.

Now he's a hero of the resistance, doggedly pressuring the White House on torture???


Topics about Stephen-smith » Ex-Rice Aide Blasts Torture Program
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uudeem
Comment posted April 23, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

While on the surface Zelikow's statements seem appropriately nuanced, subtle even, given the subject matter, eloquent. However, at base, it is a weasel. Mr. Zelikow is attempting a pre-emptive CYA maneuver for his boss Ms. Rice as well as himself. Mr. Zelikow appeared on the Rachel Maddow show a couple of days ago and put this argument out, claiming that over in the State Department there was considerable consternation regarding these actions. I believe that these arguments are being made so that he and possibly Ms. Rice wil attempt to absolve themselves from any tinge of responsibility by using this supposed opposition as a basis for absolution. Unfortunately,at the time the torture program got underway, Ms. Rice was functioning as National Security Advisor. The question then,is, in what capacity did ZeliKow serve when Condi was NSA? What advice did he offer at that time?


uudeem
Comment posted April 23, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

While on the surface Zelikow's statements seem appropriately nuanced, subtle even, given the subject matter, eloquent. However, at base, it is a weasel. Mr. Zelikow is attempting a pre-emptive CYA maneuver for his boss Ms. Rice as well as himself. Mr. Zelikow appeared on the Rachel Maddow show a couple of days ago and put this argument out, claiming that over in the State Department there was considerable consternation regarding these actions. I believe that these arguments are being made so that he and possibly Ms. Rice wil attempt to absolve themselves from any tinge of responsibility by using this supposed opposition as a basis for absolution. Unfortunately,at the time the torture program got underway, Ms. Rice was functioning as National Security Advisor. The question then,is, in what capacity did ZeliKow serve when Condi was NSA? What advice did he offer at that time?


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