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Marjorie Cohn

Marjorie Cohn

Posted May 1, 2009 | 11:42 AM (EST)

Condi Channels Nixon: If the President Says So, It's Not Illegal


On April 27, Condoleezza Rice had a brief Q & A with some Stanford students:

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijEED_iviTA.

Condi was extremely uncomfortable, defensive and nervous. She was rude to the first student, interrupted him and yelled at him.

When asked by another student about a recent report that she authorized waterboarding, Condi said, "I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency [CIA] that they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department's clearance."

The kicker was when she was asked whether waterboarding is torture. She replied, "By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it didn't violate our obligations under the Convention against Torture."

Richard Nixon: "If the president does it, it's not illegal."

John Yoo, in a 2005 debate with Notre Dame professor Doug Cassel: "There is no law that could prevent the President from ordering that a young child of a suspect in custody be tortured, even by crushing the child's testicles."

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Defied the Law and co-author of the new book, Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent.