Zelikow Sums It Up
During this morning’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on torture, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) who chaired the hearing, asked Philip Zelikow, the former state department adviser, about the reaction he received when he objected to the interrogation techniques approved by the Office of Legal Counsel. Whitehouse noted that “lawyers love to debate. It’s our nature to quarrel with other and exchange views.” So how did the Justice Department lawyers respond to Zelikow’s arguments?
“The arguments I was making were pretty profound,” answered Zelikow. “Because if I was right, their whole interpretation of the CID standard [the standard for "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," forbidden by the Convention Against Torture and by the U.S. Constitution] was fundamentally unsound.”
So they had “a few options,” Zelikow said. One is, “let’s take another look at this” and see if there’s any validity to the different opinion, or, “they could say, Zelikow, this shows how rusty you are in practicing law. We need to tell you why you’ve misunderstood this area of the law.”
But in fact, said Zelikow, “they didn’t do any of those things.” They chose a third option. “They just said, ‘we don’t want to talk about it.’”
And it’s that third option — intentionally burying your head in the sand — that demonstrates bad faith and an intent to ignore the relevant law, as the legal ethics expert David Luban testified.