On his Friday show, Bill Moyers had Vincent Warren, the executive director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Vicki Divoll, who used to serve as a legal advisor to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, to discuss torture, drone strikes, and President Obama.
Divoll also authored an op-ed for the New York Times last month, titled, “Who Says You Can Kill Americans, Mr. President?”
Vicki Divoll, who worked at the CIA until 2000, said that during her time at the intelligence organization, “harsh interrogation, detention, and certainly killing were not on the table. You would have been laughed out of a conference room if you brought up any tactics such as those, at that time.”
Warren said that he was deeply troubled by the secrecy of the Obama administration in regards to torture. “Clearly the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to and needs to keep some of this stuff classified. But we run into this problem where if you look historically, the only way that a country and certainly a country like the United States can torture is if they do it in secret, right? There was a connection between the secrecy and the torture.”
When Moyers asked if Obama was “fighting the war on terror within the rule of law,” Warren replied, “I do not. In fact, I know that he is not.”
Divoll was somewhat more lenient, saying, “I am concerned that he may not be. But I’m not going to go quite so far as to say that he is not following the rule of law. I think his lawyers have told him he is and he believes them.”
Warren asserted that “There’s no judicial oversight for how they determine who they’re going to kill and who they don’t want to kill.”
In regards to Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen killed overseas by the government, Divoll said that there is “plenty of evidence that lots of people are suspected of doing lots of things. And that doesn’t mean we shoot them from the sky.”
But both guests worried that the targeted killings would make the world less safe. “There are many commentators who believe, and some in government who are concerned that the reaction in these villages, in these tribal areas to the drone threat, which is constant over their heads is radicalizing some who might not have otherwise been radicalized. So I think there’s certainly a concern that we’re making the problem bigger,” Divoll said.
Warren noted that not only do we have drone strikes and extrajudicial killings, but that the executive branch refuses to explain the legal justification for doing so. “We are now in an era where even the government’s interpretation of the law becomes something akin to a state secret.That we have to go through legal hurdles to get the government to articulate the legal theory by which they have the justification for doing things. That’s a problem in a democracy,” he said.
Both agreed that one problem was what they called the “fourth branch of government” — the American public.
“The public narrative, I think, really is ‘The government must, we trust President Obama. The government must know what it’s doing. So when these people died, there was probably a good reason for it. And you actually don’t have to tell us what it is. We trust you.’ That’s where democracies die,” Warren argued. “That’s where we go wrong. You should never ever trust that the government is being completely and totally honest about the mistakes that it’s making.”
Watch the video, via billmoyers.com, below.