School Shooters and CIA Torturers, all together now?
By Kary Love
Every CIA agent (as well as all other US Government a-gents and even State Officers) is required to take an oath to defend the Constitution. Preserving and protecting the supreme law is supposed to be “Job One” of every federal employee, all uniformed military, the CIA, the NSA, (the other 13 secret spy agencies), and especially including the President. Defending the Constitution is the very justification for their jobs, their paychecks and their office. They are all creatures of the Constitution and bound by oath to preserve it.
This includes the Bill of Rights provisions such as the Fifth Amendment adopted as part of the supreme law since 1791 which states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be ta-ken for public use, without just compensation.
In my judgment as a citizen of the USA, I regard the Constitution as the “social contract” between the people and their government. Most of the Constitution, but especially the Bill of Rights, exists to protect the people from government abuse of power—and makes that protection enforceable by lawsuit, and this is what makes America great, a nation of law with citizens who have rights, not subjects who have only the grace of the King to protect them. Thus, Americans have an interest in every person nominated to governmental office and a duty to inquire if such person has a history of behavior regarding the Constitution that may give insight into how they would wield the power of office. Folk wisdom going back to at least the Bible teaches the “leopard does not change their spots,” or “by their fruits shall ye know them.” Or, “once a crook, always a crook,” for a more modern version.
“Dining with the Devil? Bring a long spoon,” wrote Ambrose Bierce
Gina Haspel’s nomination and confirmation for head of the CIA could be the capstone on a long history of erosion of law. It is the predictable result of making compromises of principle deemed “necessary” due to “emergency” situations. The fear and anxiety of perceived emergencies in history has resulted in making kneejerk changes to long cherished principles in the heat of the moment often to the long-term injury of the nation doing so. The CIA torture program is one of those. Recent reports indicate Gina Haspel was a “leader” of the CIA torture:
But in his 2014 book, John Rizzo, a longtime senior CIA lawyer, indicated that Haspel was responsible for the incommunicado detention and torture not of two men, but of dozens, potentially. Former intelligence officials interviewed by The Daily Beast have portrayed Haspel’s experience similarly.
Rizzo, in his memoir, Company Man, looked back on his time in a Langley controversy he likened to “a big turd dumped on my desk”: the fateful November 2005 decision, made by Haspel’s then-boss Jose Rodriguez with her support, to destroy 92 videotapes depicting the 2002 torture of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri.
Rizzo wrote that Rodriguez’s then-chief of staff—who was Haspel, though he didn’t name her, as her identity was then an official secret—was deeply involved in the agency’s torture program.
It is a legitimate question for an American citizen to weigh her suitability for appointment against her oath to the Constitution. Are her actions “running” the torture program consistent with her oath to defend the rights of the 5th Amendment: No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The right not to be compelled to be a witness against yourself, your right to remain silent was hard won by civilized people over centuries of Kings and Emperors torturing their own people to extort confessions to supposed crimes. It would appear fidelity to this provision, and her oath, render suspect Ms. Haspel’s fidelity to this principle.
But the CIA torture program was not part of a “criminal prosecution,” Ms. Haspel’s defenders could claim, thus this provision does not apply. Whether this is correct would require a case-by-case analysis, some torture program targets were prosecuted for crimes. We do not know, but “running” a torture program for the CIA certainly seems contrary to the supreme law proscribing “compelling” one to give up their right to be silent, not to be a witness against themselves at the very least.
The fifth amendment lends further support to disqualification by its following proscription: No person… shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….” Surely torturing a person deprives them of liberty—the right to be free from infliction of pain by government agents is long recognized by US Law. In some cases, the CIA torture program resulted in deprivation of life, or the threat thereof, similarly suspect as “due process of law.” In fact, due process of law ordinarily means only after legal process resulting in a court order can a person be deprived of “liberty.” The opposite of due process, as Mark Twain trenchantly put it is, “We will have the trial right after the hanging.” Such a process, though used by many tyrants and dictators, is not the American way. Again, torturing first and then having the trial (if ever) again colors Ms. Haspel’s suitability for high US office.
I am not going to belabor the legal technicalities, though many other questions of legitimacy of torture under the Constitution exist. I think it sufficient to look at it this way, if your child had been tortured by a US government employee, would you think that person suitable for promotion—not only because of what they did to your child, but because of their fidelity to their oath? And, if they violated their oath, what does that say about their character? If they took their oath to god, not mere affirmation, did they lie to god? And if they lied to god, can you trust any promise they make to the people in their confirmation hearings? Can the leopard change its spots? Oaths are the foundation of human law making, arguably a gift from god.
Sadly, with her confirmation by the US Senate, at the request of the US President, the oath breaking is complete—as all US Senators and all US Presidents also swear an oath to preserve and defend, not undermine and destroy, the hard-won rights declared in the supreme law. A government of oath breakers is a government of liars. It is no surprise to find it is also a government of torturers. Once the line of personal integrity is gone, no law, no oath, can save it. These leopards have shown their spots, what is a citizen to do? I think a government of such moral depravity provides an unfortunate example, one followed by school, nightclub and hotel shooters—if lawlessness is good enough for those who swore an oath to the law, surely it is good enough for the lowly ordinary citizen?