Philip Zelikow: OLC Interpretation Would Allow Waterboarding of U.S. Citizens

May 13, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Former State Department adviser Philip Zelikow at this morning’s Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing testified that when he saw the so-called torture memos written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, “It seemed to me that the OLC interpretation of U.S. Constitutional Law in this area was strained and indefensible. I could not imagine any federal court in America agreeing that the entire CIA program could be conducted and it would not violate the American Constitution.”

He was particularly disturbed, he testified, by this implication of the memos: “If the CIA program passed muster under an American constitutional compliance analysis, then a program of this kind would pass American constitutional muster if employed anywhere in the United States on American citizens.”

His memos to administration officials expressing his concerns were not only ignored, but destroyed, he said.  He added that they have since been “found” and are now being reviewed for declassification.