Reflecting on the Torture Question
Dr. Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a position he has held since July 2003. He is the author or editor of eleven books on American foreign policy, including War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars (Simon and Schuster, May 2009). He is also the author of one book on management: The Bureaucratic Entrepreneur: How to Be Effective in Any Unruly Organization (Brookings, 1999).
From January 2001 to June 2003, Dr. Richard Haass was director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he was a principal adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate to hold the rank of ambassador, Dr. Haass also served as U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan and U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process. For his efforts, he received the State Department's Distinguished Honor Award.
Dr. Haass has extensive additional government experience. From 1989 to 1993, he was special assistant to President George H. W. Bush and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. In 1991, Dr. Haass was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for his contributions to the development and articulation of U.S. policy during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Previously, he served in the Departments of State (1981-85) and Defense (1979-80) and was a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate.
Dr. Haass also was vice president and director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, the Sol M. Linowitz visiting professor of international studies at Hamilton College, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. A Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Haass holds a BA from Oberlin College and the Master and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Oxford University. He has received honorary doctorates from Hamilton College, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgetown University, and Oberlin College.
Dr. Richard Haass was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
Question: Should Bush administration officials be prosecuted over torture?
Richard Haass: No. I wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day essentially arguing that we should not criminalize the policy debate. I read all the memos that have been released by the various justice department officials and what they did in the way the legal reasoning sometimes do almost like accountants. They were basically saying the following forms of activity are not explicitly illegal or excluded under domestic or international statute. I don’t necessarily agree with the reasoning, it was certainly aggressive legal reasoning but it seems to me it’s not the sort of thing that gets into the realm of criminality, it’s simply aggressive advocacy.
What’s more they don’t set the policy, they were simply arguing the policy and then it was up to the president and the cabinet and others to make a decision about what was going to be allowed or not. So I think this whole debate about whether the prosecutor criminalize those involved is really misguided. What we ought to have a debate in this country is about the pros and cons of certain types of interrogation techniques.
That’s a legitimate debate about what the benefits potentially are and reasonable people seem to disagree on that and what the cause are and clearly this cause reputing in the United States, there’s moral issues and again there’s real basic questions about the efficacy of these techniques whether they actually do provide usable, valuable, information but I don’t see this as illegal issue.
I see this as a policy issue and for the Congress and the United States I don’t think we need years of distraction or trying to find scapegoats or alleged criminal activity. I would think we need a policy debates and we need to get on with it because this country faces an array of challenges that borders on the unprecedented.
I also think that someone who’s been in and out of government in my career, it’s not a smarter healthy thing to do, to criminalize advocacy, that people are going to be making arguments in government and sometimes it maybe quite assured of or aggressive or outside the box, well fine that’s why you set up processes to vet these things that’s why you need a discipline rigorous national security council process.
Recorded on: May 08, 2009
Richard Haass on why advocates of torture should not be prosecuted.
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