Is Torture Now a “Gray Area” at Fordham? Ray Talks CIA, Whistleblowing & Memories at Fordham Law

by Joseph Vitale, the FORDHAM RAM

Fordham Alum Talks CIA, Whistleblowing and Memories

Ray was interviewed by his old college newspaper before taking part in a panel discussion on whistleblowing; at Fordham Law School, March 11, 2014. The program and panelists are described in:

The video of the panel discussion is expected to be posted later (hopefully in unedited form; see below).

On Jan. 30, Fordham Law had invited former CIA “lawyer” John Rizzo to discuss his book-length unapologetic apologia for the role he played in “dark-side” crimes like torture. It was Rizzo who passed along the Bush Justice Department “legal” opinions approving waterboarding, for example.

Rizzo’s performance at Fordham Law was … well, it might be described as an “extraordinary rendition” – a shameless, ethically vacuous defense of the indefensible. The video of that event (most of it, anyway) can be seen at:

Ray had been asked to teach a class at Fordham College on Jan. 30. So, that evening he held his nose and came downtown to the Law School for the Rizzo performance. He managed to ask a question during the Q&A, but, alas, has just discovered that his question has been redacted from the final videotape.

Asking his question, Ray spoke clearly into a portable microphone like most other questioners. What he remembers saying (see below) can be checked, of course, against the original videotape; that is, unless that tape has met the same fate as the 92 videotapes of harsh interrogation that were destroyed by the CIA on Nov. 9, 2005. Rizzo was CIA’s top lawyer at the time and had been ordered by the White House counsel not to allow the tapes to be destroyed. Here’s Ray’s question:

“Mr. Rizzo, I imagine you are feeling quite affirmed at being invited to Fordham, ‘The Jesuit University of New York City.’ I imagine President Joseph McShane had a hand in bringing you here, and in your book you make it clear that you share an admiration for Fordham alumnus John Brennan, now Director of the CIA. As for Brennan, though, not all were happy when McShane gave Brennan the honor of giving the university Commencement address in May 2012.

“A graduating senior expressed his qualms to McShane, in the presence of others, about Brennan’s role in torture and in drone killings. McShane’s response was not what I learned in Fordham College 55 years ago. I had learned that torture inhabited the same moral category as rape and slavery – intrinsically evil, always wrong. Fordham’s president told the graduating senior, ‘Well, we don’t live in a black and white world, we live in a gray world.’

“Mr. Rizzo, am I right in thinking you must feel affirmed at being invited here, and at sharing President McShane’s views on torture as a grey area?”

Someone deleted my question from the final videotape (linked above), and substituted (at about minute 49:17) a slide containing this:

“How do you feel about coming out and talking about your book? Do you view torture as morally evil or is it one of those grey areas?

Responding to Ray’s question, Rizzo conceded that his invitation probably had been blessed by Fordham’s president. And Rizzo’s book makes it clear that McShane and Rizzo have a mutual friend in John Brennan, to whom McShane gave the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane letters (sic) at Commencement 2012.

Well before that, Brennan had publicly defended the practice of “extraordinary rendition” (aka kidnapping). For many captives/prisoners, this was the sine-qua-non first step in CIA’s torture protocol.

Ray confesses to continued wonderment that Fordham’s president would be so infected by the “celebrity virus,” that he would allow my alma mater to be sullied by thugs like Brennan and Rizzo and would pressure the law school to let itself be used in an attempt to grant them a measure of richly undeserved respectability.

As for Brennan, he has been buffeted over recent days for allegedly spying on the Senate committee that is supposed to be overseeing the CIA. Ray’s guess is that Brennan will probably escape serious consequences from this most recent caper. Why? Because Obama simply lacks the courage to take the risks that would be involved in trying to rein in miscreants like Brennan. Oddly, the record shows that President Obama fears Brennan fully as much as President McShane admires him.

O Tempora, O Mores!