Add Condi to the list

datePosted on 20:43, May 2nd, 2009 by Lew

According to this story, Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted involvement in a (technical) conspiracy to torture US terror detainees:

In little-noticed comments Thursday, the former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon John Dean said Thursday that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may have unwittingly admitted to a criminal conspiracy when questioned about torture by a group of student videographers at Stanford.
Rice told students at Stanford that she didn’t authorize torture, she merely forwarded the authorization for it. …
“She tried to say she didn’t authorize anything, then proceeded to say she did pass orders along to the CIA to engage in torture if it was legal by the standard of the Department of Justice,” Dean said. “This really puts her right in the middle of a common plan, as it’s known in international law, or a conspiracy, as it’s known in American law, and this indeed is a crime. If it indeed happened the way we think it did happen.”

Now, there’s a lot of ifs in there, and anyone with a more thorough knowledge of the issues in play is welcome to pour cold water on it. But to my eye, if this lawyer is right then it stands to reason that the Hat Trick of those at the top of the US torture agenda has now expanded to a Gang of Four.

Incidentally Pascal’s bookie, who ought to blog more often, makes a strong case in defence of Obama’s restraint on the torture issues in a series of comments at The Standard. The key point is the following:

[if Obama was too heavily involved] the story would become Obama v Bush, Dem v GOP. Rather than The Law v Criminals.

He’s right: if it’s to be done, it must be done right, and the taint of partisan politics mustn’t be admitted as a distraction. His role is to provide political and legal conditions within which such a prosecution can thrive of its own accord, not to drive the prosecution himself. He’s doing that; those who want Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and (perhaps) Rice to stand trial had best hold their tongues and show a little faith.

L

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25 Responses to “Add Condi to the list”

  1. Pablo on May 2nd, 2009 at 22:02

    Lew: What are you saying that I did not say in my post last week on this issue (other than some spurious links)? Or do you have some inside info?

    Just because Bush Sr. bought property in Paraguay (the nation with the no extradition treaty that you cannot identify) does not mean that the old man was looking for immunity opportunities for his son, in no small part because Paraguay has extradition protocols with Spain, where Judge Galtazar Barzon is pursuing prosecution of W. Bush administration officials under writs from the ICC.

    Whatever my opinion on Maori issues, I defer to your superior knowledge. When it comes to international politics, you are well advised to do the same.

  2. Lew on May 2nd, 2009 at 23:03

    Pablo,

    Lew: What are you saying that I did not say in my post last week on this issue (other than some spurious links)? Or do you have some inside info?

    I’ve pointed out two things; 1. the apparently-new admission by Rice, and doing so in a manner cognizant of the unreliable nature of the source, and explicitly calling for expert interpretation of whether the events mean what that source claims they mean since I’m no kind of specialist in this field; and 2. that legal action against the torturers needs to be kept as free of partisan taint as is possible, because it’s a political issue as well as an issue of justice.

    Just because Bush Sr. bought property in Paraguay (the nation with the no extradition treaty that you cannot identify) does not mean that the old man was looking for immunity opportunities for his son, in no small part because Paraguay has extradition protocols with Spain, where Judge Galtazar Barzon is pursuing prosecution of W. Bush administration officials under writs from the ICC.

    Not sure what you’re referring to here. I haven’t claimed anything to do with future extradition or the Bushes’ attempts to avoid it; Pascal’s bookie did that in the linked thread at The Standard.

    Whatever my opinion on Maori issues, I defer to your superior knowledge. When it comes to international politics, you are well advised to do the same, less you look like Roger Nome. This was your Nome moment.

    I don’t see how my post here contradicts or substantially duplicates material in yours, so I can’t see what prompted this.

    L

  3. Pablo on May 2nd, 2009 at 23:37

    Lou: If it makes you feel good–I assume you are talking from a deep grounding in human rights law and international relations theory–then good on ya for saying so. Although we agree on the basics of this story, my 25 years in the foreign policy community is clearly trumped by your media-savvy, after-the-fact, sub-text reading insight. As I said in the post you overlapped on, Condi needs to be put on trial.

    I take it from you response that i am free to comment from my (admittedly uninformed) position about the merits of an H in the spelling of Wanganui?

  4. Lew on May 2nd, 2009 at 23:55

    Pablo,

    I just don’t get why you think I’ve presumed superior knowledge about the topic or standing to `trump’ your view – a plainly ludicrous proposition. I had no intention of doing so, but just so’s I’m clear, can you explain how it was you got this impression?

    L

  5. Pablo on May 3rd, 2009 at 00:10

    Lew: I am simply stating that a) I had already posted on this; and b) my knowledge of Maori issues is equivalent to yours on the hard edge of security (I have some immediate knowledge of interrogations, coercive and otherwise).

    To wit: I would never presume to speak about Maori issues because I do not fully know the subject after 10 years living in NZ. The least I expect is that co-bloggers in this community steer clear of what they clearly do not know first hand or academically when it comes to a subject post, or at least ask someone who does know about the subject before posting an opinion based upon second hand sources.

    As I said before: I agree that Condi needs to be charged. Using the Standard and PB (as good as he was) to make the case was, in my estimation, less than convincing. My previous post spelt the issue out quite clearly.

    All that having been said, we are both in agreement on the matter. I suggest that you look up the name Galthazar Barzon to understand where I am coming from.

  6. Lew on May 3rd, 2009 at 00:14

    Pablo,

    (Cross-edits – thank you for the explanation.)

    As I said in the post you overlapped on, Condi needs to be put on trial.

    Ok, I see your objection now – the link above adds no weight to the case that your analysis in the previous post didn’t already establish, and by inviting people to rubbish it I implied your post was rubbish. That wasn’t my intention – the purpose was to consider whether the admission, absent any of the other reasons, would be enough to merit inclusion in a list of defendants.

    It was a point poorly made in the context of your post, so I apologise for the slight – and the redundancy.

    Incidentally, I quoted PB’s argument in support of the softly-softly approach Obama seems to be taking to the prosecution, not to the fact of the prosecution going ahead at all, which you did argue quite completely.

    L

  7. Pablo on May 3rd, 2009 at 00:50

    Lew: Given the quality you bring to this forum, no apology is needed. Upon re-reading things I fear I have been a tad too sensitive about the overlap. Let us carry on apace.

  8. Tom Semmens on May 3rd, 2009 at 08:38

    What a polite disagreement!!! Why, I think I’ll use the nice, bone china for my morning tea now after reading this civilised series of posts.

    Makes a change from Kiwiblog – normally I have to have a shower using a metal scrubbing brush after reading DPF’s comments.

  9. Quoth the Raven on May 3rd, 2009 at 13:37

    My point made in the standard’s comment section, in discussion with Pascal, is not whether or not what Obama is doing now is the right approach it’s that Obama has changed his mind on the issue of prosecution. Obama said repeatedly that he didn’t want to see any prosecutions. So the issue of whether Obama is playing smart politics now is a moot point, he was put into his current position by others, no the issue I was pointing to is that Obama personally did not believe there was a need for prosecutions. That speaks to the character of the man and that was the point of my comments. Obama is not some saviour, like some very confused people on the left (he’s right wing after all) are trying to point out. And further to this is Obama’s justice department throwing out the Jewel vs NSA case and trying the same with the John Yoo case. After those cases why should I have “faith” in Obama? After all of Obama’s lies, equivocations and double talk why should I have “faith”. I thought that a rather illiberal and perverse little comment from you at the end there Lew. This is not simply about politics these laws should be enforced and Obama didn’t want to do that. What kind of man is he?
    Finally, even one of the commentators at the Huffington post doesn’t think any prosecutions will come from this. So is it so strange that I don’t have faith when even those at the Huffington post of all places don’t have faith.

  10. Pablo on May 3rd, 2009 at 13:58

    QtR: I agree that Obama’s hand on prosecutions will be forced rather than volunteered. As I said in my earlier post, there is a mechanism by which lower level officials can be granted immunity so that they can testify as to who, exactly, gave orders. That will help overcome the “plausible deniability” shield behind which Rice, Rove and Cheney will hide. The Justice Department lawyers (Yoo, Beymen) are the ones most at risk. Keep an eye on judge Garzon in Spain (mentioned above), as he is preparing war crimes indictments against these folk and is the fellow who successfully indicted Pinochet in 1999 as well asa number of other Argentine and Chilean junta members, thereby forcing them to be arrested and tried at home rather than risk international extradition.

  11. Lew on May 3rd, 2009 at 14:27

    QtR, I agree it’s not simply a matter of politics – I stated it’s a matter of justice as well, but the political nature of the situation can’t be ignored. And I’m not calling for faith in Obama personally – I’m calling for faith in the systems of law which he’s campaigned to uphold; that’s the point of distinguishing between Obama driving the prosecution and him fostering a situation ripe for a prosecution to be driven by someone else – the AG, or whoever. As much as Obama might not personally want prosecutions, it would be politically disastrous for him to prevent them from going ahead, having been elected on a mandate of change, transparency, accountability and the White House’s new terms of engagement with his country and the world.

    L

  12. Quoth the Raven on May 3rd, 2009 at 20:55

    I’m not calling for faith in Obama personally – I’m calling for faith in the systems of law which he’s campaigned to uphold

    And by his repeated refusal to prosecute before his hand was forced it is clear that you can have little faith in Obama upholding the laws he campaigned to uphold. BTW your statement – not faith in Obama but faith in what he (Obama) campaigned to do doesn’t make much sense.
    Just as I have little faith in Obama I have little faith in the rest of his team. Just like I pointed out with the Jewel vs NSA case they’re certainly not commited to accountability, transparency or upholding the law. One of the justifications for throwing that case out was “state secrets”. Ridiculous. The words expressed by Obama’s Attorney General about CIA operatives doing their duty also bolsters my belief that not much will come of this.
    Just like that commentator at the Huffington post I have very little confidence that any prosecutions will come of this. I would like to see all those down the line from the enablers like Bush, the architects of the policy, to those who carried out the torture and all those in between prosecuted. Even if, as unlikely as it is beginning to seem that just a small handful of people are prosecuted I’ll still be dissatisfied.
    It is interesting to see that Robert Fisk in his latest piece has as little faith in Obama as I:

    We are now, are we not, supposed to be in the age of Brown-like truth, as we finally haul down the flag in Basra, of near-certainty of an official inquiry into the whole Iraq catastrophe, a time of reckoning for the men who sent us off to war under false pretences. I suspect that this – like the Obama pretensions to change – is a falsehood. Well, we shall see.

  13. Pablo on May 3rd, 2009 at 21:30

    QtR: Using Fisk to buttress your point undermines it because Fisk cannot see the difference between the bogus reasons for the Iraq invasion and the US current legal process, and his bias (both pro and con) is too obvious. Let’s get something straight: Obama, whatever his political proclivities, is inserted in a much larger political machine with historical dynamics all of its own. You do not change these overnight, and in a democracy sometimes you have to compromise no matter what the ideologues on “your” side may say.

    The deal is this: in any country, anywhere, including good ole Aotearoa, the decision is prosecute former government officials for past misdeeds is eminently, if not completely political. Obama and his minions will weigh up the political (electoral) benefits of pressing charges, then make the call. I hope that they call in favour of initially selective prosecutions, then see what happens from there.

    We all may want everyone up and down the post 9/11 torture chain of command to go to jail, but your comments demonstrate a lack of knowledge about how public bureaucracies work. Unless they violated their legal charge and were unusually sadistic and weird, the people at the bottom of this torture food chain were ORDERED to undertake the privations on personal integrity that Condi says were legal because W said so. It would take a remarkable person–and I have direct experience with people in this field–who would sacrifice a career and be blackballed from any employment in the US because they refused to obey these sort of post-9/11 orders. The time was ripe for excesses, but the people at the torture coal face sought and received legal guidance for their actions. They are not to blame (unless, again, someone went beyond the charter–so far, we do not know if anyone did).

    If you have direct knowledge of the interrogator community in the US involved in the interrogation of Islamicists, I shall defer to your superior logic. But as I said to Lew in a fit of ill-advised pique, you need to be there in order to go there.

    On one thing we can agree: the moral-ethical dimensions of the issue are beyond dispute–whatever the utilitarian rationale, torture is wrong. The question is, was it useful? On that score, as I mentioned (yet again) in my earlier post, the answer is NO.

  14. Quoth the Raven on May 3rd, 2009 at 22:02

    Pablo – I get all that side of the thing as I have said repeatedly. Reading comprehension?

    On one thing we can agree: the moral-ethical dimensions of the issue are beyond dispute–whatever the utilitarian rationale, torture is wrong. The question is, was it useful? On that score, as I mentioned (yet again) in my earlier post, the answer is NO.

    I know it wasn’t useful why you need to tell me that I don’t know. My points about Obama, why I need to repeat myself I don’t know, were about his personal morals – I understand the larger political machine he is inserted in and we can be thankful that it has forced him to change his position on torture. Did you even read my first comment here?

    The deal is this: in any country, anywhere, including good ole Aotearoa, the decision is prosecute former government officials for past misdeeds is eminently, if not completely political.

    Silly me I thought there was a legal dimension as well. Completely political aye.

    We all may want everyone up and down the post 9/11 torture chain of command to go to jail, but your comments demonstrate a lack of knowledge about how public bureaucracies work.

    I know I was being unrealistic in getting them all prosecuted. It’s called expressing one’s opinion. As you said you also would like to see them all prosecuted. Do you not understand how bureacracies work then? Reading comprehension?

    Unless they violated their legal charge and were unusually sadistic and weird, the people at the bottom of this torture food chain were ORDERED to undertake the privations on personal integrity that Condi says were legal because W said so.

    They were unusually sadistic – they tortured people! What could be more unusually sadistic? As to how far down the line we can go I think it is instructive to look at the trials of former Nazis.

  15. Pascal's bookie on May 3rd, 2009 at 22:18

    JFTR, The running away to South America bit was intended as a metaphor. :)

    Quoth, Hi.

    I’m focussed more on what’s happening, rather than what is being said. And when I say what’s happening, I mean results of actions taken. I’m not concerned about character or who is sufficiently left by which interpretation.

    On the secrecy cases, yes the doctrines that Bush and Obama were arguing in court are an outrage. But think about this: Bush judge shopped around looking for the right judges, changed the status of claimants to avoid standing, and pulled all sorts of other tricks to avoid court hearings where he wasn’t sure of the outcomes. Even then in some instances he lost. Obama has won some cases using the arguments, and yes that sucks. But, but, he has lost the ones that cut to the heart of the secrecy arguments.

    Here’s Greenwald, who is pure enough for you I’m sure, cutting Obama no slack whatsoever, and trust me that I am very very glad that there are liberals in the states pushing Obama hard on this stuff. That in fact is central to my whole point. I am glad as gladioli that people are making the case for the obvious legal need for investigations in the strongest possible terms. Go team.

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/04/28/secrecy/index.html

    What this means is that those arguments have been found by the courts to be unconstitutional. That means they are no longer in the tool box for future presidents in the way that they would be if Obama hadn’t argued them in court. I don’t really care whether or not Obama was sincere in running those arguments, it does not matter, and it is unknowable. It is the effect that matters. Remember that he is a constitutional lawyer himself. He believes in a (small r) republican system of government, whereby the system must be trusted to work.

    All of the passionate arguments are coming from our side, because the other side essentially has to sit on it’s hands for a while or oppose random leftists rather than the President. That’s a really important dynamic because it means our arguments get a much clearer hearing. It means that our opponents must try and argue for torture and it’s legality, rather than against the President’s ‘partisan witch hunt in a time of war’.

    I’m explicitly not arguing that Obama is God almighty, so I’d appreciate it if you refrained from that line of snark. He’s an American President with all that entails, and that entails much disagreement with me. For what that is worth.

    I’m focussing specifically on whether or not the US is moving away from, or entrenching, specific things set up by the Bush administration. It appears to me that they are moving, slowly, toward investigations on the torture. That movement is being aided, wittingly or not, by the effects of Obama’s actions and words.

    Assuming he is not an idiot, I think it is only fair to admit to at least the possibility that he can predict the obvious effects of the actions that he is taking that are furthering our ends.

    As I’ve said before, I’m not ‘defending’ him, other than from arguments I feel are not conclusive, I’m reserving judgment for now. I’m not arguing that he is a great leftist, merely that he is possibly better than you are making out.

    As I said before, I am all for strenuous denunciations from the left where that helps (it’s a crucial part of the strategy), but from here in NZ, with my tiny little voice, I think a have the luxury of a little detachment.

  16. Pablo on May 3rd, 2009 at 22:22

    OtR: As with Lew, I must concede. Your righteousness trumps my realism. In the context of this argument I agree but disagree. Once you invoked the Nazi clause it was time for me to stop debating.

    BTW–what is the reason for the insult about reading comprehension?

    Oh, and yes, I shall say this again: it is completely political “aye” to make this type of legal call, in NZ particularly (but less significantly). The good news is that the US political community is far too heterogenous and active to allow governments to just do as they see fit. The torture story is out in the US so it cannot be suppressed. The liberal/civil libertarian wolves are baying for blood and with a 69% approval rating Obama will feed them a bone. I vote for Beyman and Yoo to roll under grants of immunity, and Cheney to be the bone. That is why Cheney is mounting an active media preemptive defense.

    I already said most of this in a post a week ago. Where were you then?

  17. Quoth the Raven on May 3rd, 2009 at 22:52

    Pascal – As I think I’ve said already I don’t think we’re really in much disagreement and as I’ve said before you’re making perfectly good points. I was just trying to inject a little realism as to Obama and the broader prospects for change, and you have that realism, if I hadn’t have mentioned torture in my original comment at the standard with its list of things Obama’s done and is doing that I think are bad we wouldn’t have got into this side discussion about torture.

    Pablo – I put in the snarky reading comprehension comments not only because I think you were misinterpreting me but in response to the sanctimonious tone of your comment.

    Isn’t it self-righteousness not simply righteousness?

    I don’t see what your problem with the Nazi point is. I’m not making a moral comparison. I’m saying that it is instructive to look at those cases to see how far down the chain of command these sort of prosecutions can go. Also because you said the people at the bottom were ordered (all in caps) to do it and that defense sure didn’t work for the Nazis at the bottom of the chain.

    What opposition was that again?

  18. EbolaCola on May 4th, 2009 at 23:21

    As polite as the arguments here are it feels like there is a lot more reputation at stake than the classic troll vs troll that i enjoy reading on Kiwiblog. Pablo you are obviously the expert but you come across as a little condescending when dealing with others. Please resume your conflict for my amusement. ;-)

    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

  19. Pablo on May 5th, 2009 at 21:48

    Sorry to all if I sound condescending. i was trying to put the point across, bluntly, that in the pursuit of justice we need to be pragmatic, realistic, and pursue an incremental gains strategy in this particular context. I threw my past experience into the mix and that did not go over well. As for the early barking at Lew–I was just grumpy, for which I again apologise. My bad, all around.

  20. SPC on May 6th, 2009 at 16:13

    Whereas academia has its speciality departments and no doubt protocol as to deferring to recognised expertise – this being called upon (even cited) before going into print – the net is a rather egalitarian environment.

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