iOS app Android app More

Diplomat Claims Bush White House Destroyed His Memo Opposing Torture (VIDEO)

Huffington Post   First Posted: 05/22/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:15 PM ET

Philip Zelikow

Philip Zelikow, a longtime diplomat who worked as counselor to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, has been forthright in his opposition to the harsh interrogation techniques used under the Bush administration.

Zelikow disagreed with the legal reasoning employed by Bush's Office of Legal Counsel to justify the use of harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. And he claims that copies of a memo he circulated to detail his opposing views were destroyed by the White House.

Writing in Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog, Zelikow details:

"At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives."

He also described his views in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:

ZELIKOW: Many years earlier when I had been a law student and had been a practicing lawyer, I had worked, actually, on issues of treatment of prisoners and that whole body of constitutional law. So when I saw the memoranda, I was struck by the fact that, even aside from the policy problems, the legal reasoning seemed deeply unsound to me, and I wasn't sure that the president and his advisers understood just how potentially questionable and unreasonable many lawyers and judges would find this reasoning. And so, I thought it was important to just say, hey, there is another view here of this law, and a lot of people would regard the views in these memos as, to say the least, outliers...


It was my job to fight this with every ounce of energy at my disposal, using the legal means in front of me. Frankly, that's the same way they should have approached their job, is work within the institutions you've got, the institutions our country gives you.

They weren't committing an act of obstruction of justice by trying to destroy copies of the memos, and they did not succeed in destroying copies -- all the copies of these memos. Just because they disagree with an alternative view doesn't mean that my view was right, but it was important to register the fact that, hey, folks need to understand, if they didn't already, a lot of lawyers might believe that this is a radical, indefensible, unreasonable interpretation of the relevant law.

They heard that argument. They chose to move on. We continued the fight to change the policy. And ultimately did change the policy, with help from Congress and the courts.

WATCH THE INTERVIEW:

Become a fan of HuffPost Politics on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

FOLLOW HUFFPOST POLITICS