This is pretty disturbing:
“The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture… The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our 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,”
Rice’s comment is eerily reminiscent of one of the more infamous things uttered by our 40th President:
FROST: The wave of dissent, occasionally violent, which followed in the wake of the Cambodian incursion, prompted President Nixon to demand better intelligence about the people who were opposing him. To this end, the Deputy White House Counsel, Tom Huston, arranged a series of meetings with representatives of the CIA, the FBI, and other police and intelligence agencies.
These meetings produced a plan, the Huston Plan, which advocated the systematic use of wiretappings, burglaries, or so-called black bag jobs, mail openings and infiltration against antiwar groups and others. Some of these activities, as Huston emphasized to Nixon, were clearly illegal. Nevertheless, the president approved the plan. Five days later, after opposition from J. Edgar Hoover, the plan was withdrawn, but the president’s approval was later to be listed in the Articles of Impeachment as an alleged abuse of presidential power.
FROST: So what in a sense, you’re saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.
NIXON: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.
FROST: By definition.
NIXON: Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president’s decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law. Otherwise they’re in an impossible position.
Rice’s comment mirrors one that Vice-President Cheney made in the waning days of the Bush Administration and only serves to confirm something I said at that time:
In essence, the Bush/Cheney Administration spent the last eight years putting into practice the perverted imperialistic view of Executive Branch power that Nixon advocated and attempted to put into practice himself. The result has been a complete trashing of the idea that there are any real limits on the President’s power, and the complete emasculation of checks and balances thanks to a Congress that sat by and did nothing while the President and Vice-President trashed the Constitution, and it’s worth noting that for six of those years Congress was controlled by the party that claims to respect the Constitution above all else.
Rice’s comment makes clear that this attitude didn’t stop at the Vice-President’s office, which only makes me happier that the whole lot of them are gone.