The following message was sent to Congressman Robert Wexler's mailing list members on May 7, 2009.
----- Original Message -----
From: Congressman Robert Wexler
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009
Subject: Secretary Rice's Nixonian Logic on Torture
We are a nation of laws – pure and simple.
Not even the most powerful among us - the President of the United States - can unilaterally disregard or ignore the law without consequence. Watergate should have settled any debate on the issue once and for all.
Yet somehow - three decades after Nixon outrageously stated, “when the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal,” we get this truly remarkable statement from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that echoes Richard Nixon and presents a profoundly alarming view of the powers of the presidency.
Former Secretary Rice said in response to questions on the Bush Administration’s torture policy that “the President instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligation, legal obligations under the convention against torture… and so by definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”
This statement is flat wrong.
Former Secretary Rice is not only rewriting history, she's rewriting the Constitution and ignoring the judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The President cannot order others to take action – in this case torture – that violates existing U.S. law.
This is more evidence why we need a strenuous investigation into the Bush Administration’s torture policy and why I introduced legislation to establish a special congressional committee with subpoena powers.
The use of torture by the Bush Administration seriously undermined our international standing. Now, it is clear that our use of torture has made us less safe in a measurable way:
The Washington Post reported this week that our physical treatment of a detainee led Federal prosecutors to agree to a plea deal of 15 years for one suspected terrorist collaborator. There is great concern that our use of torture, denial of habeas corpus, and failure to abide by our own laws regarding captured combatants will severely affect our ability to use statements and evidence against detainees.
In short, what we were told would make us safer may instead lead to a quicker release of very dangerous prisoners.
Bush's approval of torture tactics did not make them legal. They did, however, create an opening for detainees to make strong legal arguments for evidence to be considered inadmissible.
My legislation to appoint a select committee to investigate Bush Administration conduct will help us uncover exactly what happened and how we fix it so it will never happen again. I have also called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor so as to avoid a scenario in which the Justice Department is investigating itself.
Former Secretary Rice's choice to echo Nixon's logic should alarm all Americans as learn the hard lessons of both Watergate and the Bush Administration so we can build a more fair and democratic nation.
Congressman Robert Wexler