It is clear to Ben-Veniste that established, solid governance can actually alter the accepted, institutional approaches in seeking important answers to events that bring organizations to the edge of collapse.
Clearly lessons from Watergate still ring true today. Since The Emperor’s New Clothes was published in 2009 Ben-Veniste‘s experiences as a commissioner on the 9/11 Commission have been given time to understand his successful, seasoned approach in dealing with the Nixon Administration and the conflict over Archibald Cox and the Saturday Night Massacre provide lessons in dealing with Condoleezza Rice and Attorney Generals (John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales) under W. Bush regarding executive privilege, another throwback position to Nixon and his defense of the White House taping system.
Enhanced interrogation is simply today’s political spin to a torture technique used for over 500 years. Waterboarding as a method of torture dates back to Spain in the 1500s. The Senate’s declassified report regarding the role of the CIA’s use of torture in the war on terror after 9/11 has been a most revealing so far. I wonder if the full report will ever be declassified. Maybe to further strengthen our democracy it should take less than the 40 year wait for the Pentagon Papers.
In today’s instant twitter-world of “news” the world has learned of CIA techniques as abhorrent as rectal rehydration and a technique — so innocent at first glance — prolonged standing until you realize how this form of torture, as written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago is hideous to a human under interrogation.
In just reading the Senate’s executive overview the most chilling issue is that the CIA specifically withheld their acknowledgement of torture to the President. The second most important, but seemingly forgotten is the destruction of videotapes by the CIA of prisoners under torture. Clearly the CIA learned from Nixon’s Watergate.
I am beginning to feel again, after reading the Pentagon Papers that our democracy and leader of nations in today’s complex world has taken a temporary step backward.
Leonard Garment passed away this week. He was President Nixon’s special legal counsel as Watergate became more than just headlines. Garment and Nixon were close friends in the New York law firm of Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. Nixon joined after serving as Eisenhower’s Vice President.
President Nixon appointed Garment to replace John Dean who was fired by Nixon the same day John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman resigned due to mounting evidence that crimes regarding Watergate were committed within the White House by members of CREEP.
With the amazing impact the White House taping system had on the Watergate investigation it was Garment who successfully urged Nixon not to destroy the recorded tapes. This was the critical issue regarding Congress’ power to investigate Nixon.
Garment would actually outlast all of Nixon’s advisors and stay to serve President Ford immediately following Nixon’s resignation. As a liberal Democrat he was really swimming upstream against Nixon’s conservative inner circle.
Garment eventually left but thrived as a Washington DC attorney more many years representing many future Republicans caught in legal cases – even as a close friend to fellow law partner Scooter Libby. He was also very influential in the New York jazz community.
Maybe most impressive was Garment’s music ability that led him to play in a jazz band with Alan Greenspan before entering law school. Yes, thatAlan Greenspan. Small world back then in Brooklyn.
Johnson ordered FBI wiretaps on the GOP’s candidate that actually caught Nixon manipulating the South Vietnamese Government to boost his own Presidential aspirations in coming the November Presidential election. Those wiretaps caught Nixon dispatching a GOP supporter Anna Chennault to meet with South Vietnamese President Thieu to promise Nixon would offer the South a better deal if he rejected Johnson’s invite to Paris.
At the time Nixon’s Watergate affair was spinning out of control. Archibald Cox, appointed as the Watergate Special Prosecutor demanded access to newly revealed White House tapes after Alexander Butterfield, the President’s Deputy Assistant acknowledged a taping system was installed by Nixon.
Nixon refused to comply with a court ruling that indeed he turn over his tapes and then ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and was fired. Nixon then ordered Richardson’s Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox but he also refused and was also fired by Nixon. Next in line was Robert Bork, then Solicitor General. He did comply with Nixon’s order and fired Cox. Within hours Nixon ordered the FBI to seal off the offices of the Special Prosecutor, The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General.
It was a clear and last act the Imperial President and it was a watershed moment in our constitutional. The next day tens of thousands of Western Union telegrams flooded Congress by the American public insisting on impeaching Nixon.
Bork’s role in the Massacre, firing Cox sealed his fate fourteen years later when President Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court.