Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Oath To Uphold the Constitution: Is it Job One? Haspel's Nomination – Not Just About Her

Every CIA agent, as well as all other US Government agents and State Officers, is required to take an oath to defend the Constitution. Preserving and protecting the supreme law is supposed to be “Job One” of every federal employee, all uniformed military, the CIA, the NSA, and the President. Defending the Constitution is the very justification for their jobs, their paychecks, and their office. They are all creatures of the Constitution and bound by oath to preserve it.

This includes Bill of Rights provisions, such as the Fifth Amendment, adopted as part of the supreme law since 1791:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

I regard the Constitution as the “social contract” between the people and their government.

Most of the Constitution, but especially the Bill of Rights, exists to protect the people from government abuse of power. It makes that protection enforceable by lawsuit. This is what makes America great, a nation of law with citizens who have rights, not subjects who have only the grace of a King to protect them.

Americans have an interest in every person nominated to governmental office and a duty to inquire if such person has a history of behavior regarding the Constitution that may give insight into how they would wield the power of office.

Gina Haspel’s nomination and confirmation for head of the CIA is the predictable result of making compromises of principle deemed “necessary” due to “emergency” situations. The CIA torture program is one of those.  Recent reports indicate Gina Haspel was a “leader” of the CIA torture:

Longtime senior CIA lawyer John Rizzo, in his 2014 book, indicated that Haspel was responsible for the incommunicado detention and torture of potentially dozens. Former intelligence officials interviewed by The Daily Beast have portrayed Haspel’s experience similarly.  

Rizzo wrote that Rodriguez’s then un-named chief of staff, Haspel, whose identity was then an official secret, was deeply involved in the agency’s torture program.

It is a legitimate question for an American citizen to weigh her suitability for appointment against her oath to the Constitution. Are her actions “running” the torture program consistent with her oath to defend the rights of the 5th Amendment: the right not to be compelled to be a witness against yourself; your right to remain silent?

Ms. Haspel’s defenders could claim the CIA torture program was not part of a “criminal prosecution," thus this provision does not apply. Whether this is correct would require a case-by-case analysis, as some torture program targets were prosecuted for crimes.

Due process of law ordinarily means only after legal process resulting in a court order can a person be deprived of “liberty.”

The opposite of due process, as Mark Twain trenchantly put it is, “We will have the trial right after the hanging.”

Many other questions of legitimacy of torture under the Constitution exist. If your child had been tortured by a US government employee, would you think that person suitable for promotion: not only because of what they did to your child, but because of their fidelity to their oath? If they violated their oath, what does that say about their character? If they took their oath to God, not mere affirmation, did they lie to God?  And if they lied to God, can you trust any promise they make to the people?

Oaths are the foundation of human law making.

Sadly, with Gina Haspel’s nomination and confirmation for head of the CIA, the oath breaking is complete.

A government of oath breakers is a government of liars. It is no surprise to find it is also a government of torturers. Once the line of personal integrity is gone, no law, no oath, can save it.

What is a citizen to do? If lawlessness is good enough for those who swore an oath to the law, is it good enough for ordinary citizen?

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney, and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

Graphics and layout by the Observer

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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