Rice: Just Following Orders

It takes a special person to invoke both the failed Nuremberg defense (“just following orders”) and the failed Richard Nixon defense (“when the President does it, it's not illegal”) in one brief Q&A session, but it seems that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is that special person when it comes to explaining why she signed off on waterboarding.

See Think Progress » Rice Channels Nixon: Since The President Authorized Torture, That Makes It Legal, and play the excruciating video.

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7 Responses to Rice: Just Following Orders

  1. Mitch Guthman says:

    I don’t know that it’s fair to call either of the defenses “failed” because it’s now quite ambiguous whether these are now valid defenses since they appear to have been largely accepted by the current administration.

  2. michael says:

    Well, one failed at Nuremberg, and they both failed for Nixon and his henchmen. They fail intellectually. And I think, in the end, they’ll fail here too.

  3. She just “conveyed the authorization,” what’s wrong with that?

    In other words, “an errand boy…sent by the grocery clerk to collect a bill…”

  4. Ichabod says:

    Pew Research Center: The Religious Dimensions of the Torture Debate:

    Data from a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 14-21, 2009, among 742 American adults. Other religious groups are not reported due to small sample sizes.

    Question wording: Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?

    If you believe in this poll, roughly half the population is ready to torture on suspicion. On suspicion. Suspicion!

    The American experiment has failed.

    The glory has departed.

  5. Peter Dow says:

    The point to note however is that Presidential authorizations are only empowered by the constitution and the law and it isn’t the case that a president’s written order or verbal command or whatever always stands up as a legal, constitutional presidential authorization.

    It isn’t the case that the word of the president alone becomes law because the president in a constitutional republic has limited powers and not the unlimited powers of a dictator or a monarch.

    I am not a lawyer so I cannot say for sure whether US or international law outlaws waterboarding or not (though I trust it IS outlawed) but if it is illegal then the president couldn’t just overrule the law by saying – “it’s OK, I’m the president saying you can do it, so that makes it legal”.

    To summarize I would say it sounds like Condi was fed some flimsy legal arguments in 2002 to justify the “enhanced interrogation” techniques thought to be expedient at the time but which many people would see as torture.

    Conveying the president’s wishes to the CIA, Condi was acting as little more than a messenger, so don’t shoot the messenger.

    Condi also mentions that the authorization was subject to the Justice Department’s clearance so if they cleared it, and they are the lawyers responsible then it is their fault for not giving better legal advice.

    The Justice Department should have said “no way is waterboarding legal” and their failure to do so has brought us to this point.

    It needs to be understood that the National Security Advisor job Condi was doing in 2002 has no executive command responsibilities.

    Condi could not tell the CIA what to do because only the President gives the orders and only the Director of Central Intelligence, a.k.a. “the Director of the CIA”, (then George Tenet), directed the CIA how to interrogate people.

    Peter Dow,
    Rice for President Yahoo Group

    “Condoleezza Rice for President in 2012. Join this group of supporters from everywhere on the world wide web.”

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rice-for-president/

  6. Mitch Guthman says:

    Yes, the “only following orders” defense did fail at Nuremberg. I don’t agree that it will fail here. In fact, it seems to working just fine here in the USA. I see no prospect that these people will be held to answer for the evil they’ve done. None. There is an extremely strong consensus among the elites in favor of the acceptance of torture as a method of gathering “intelligence” and most likely those elites would also accept the use of torture as an instrument of social control should the “need” arise.

    As to Nixon’s formulation of “the divine right of presidents” it too seems to have been authoritatively and widely accepted in this country and apparently by our current President.

    Realistically, President Obama has, In effect, dealt the struggle against impunity a devastating blow.

  7. Rhodo Zeb says:

    We are just getting started. The defense will fail, as it always has. And the prosecutions will come, soon.

    Obama hasn’t done much to hamper efforts. He, unlike many, knows what his obligations are under the Constitution. He is not going to buck the trends in this case (as he, arguably, should not do with issues that are ambiguous) but will let us move forward as pressure mounts, and that pressure will certainly not abate.

    Peter, thanks for the link to your group. I would assume membership has not be increasing recently, or indeed much after, say, 2007.

    Of course I think you are horribly misguided, but your posting seems like an honest attempt to clear your girl, which I respect.

    Tell you the truth, she had better be careful. Her deputy just came out and said he passed around a competing legal analysis with a very different conclusion. Her deputy told her it wasn’t legal (at some point). That’s important.

    Condie had better be careful. She could end up being the sacrificial lamb. When the time comes every one of these scum bags will be ready to sell out any or all the others.

    We are starting with the lawyers, but it will not end there.

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