Joining their counterparts at the East Haven and Hamden precincts, officers in the New Haven Police Department could be patrolling the city with body cameras next year.
New Haven is currently applying for a state grant that would provide $500.000 in funds for body cams on all members of the police force, which numbers over 450. This development comes after a 90-day pilot program last fall, during which 27 police officers equipped themselves with body cams for a 90-day pilot program. If the grant goes through, the NHPD could have the cameras by spring of 2017, said Chief Anthony Campbell in a recent statement.
Still, NHPD Media Liaison David Hartman said, these plans are in their infancy, and the department has established no formal protocol regarding the camera’s usage.
“There are [no body cameras yet] purchased nor has there been a policy implemented on their use,” Hartman said.
The move by the New Haven department runs parallel to a recent nation and statewide effort to introduce police cameras. Last May, President Barack Obama and the United States Department of Justice launched the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program, which allocated New Haven $90,000 of a $20 million national grant to implement such technology.
Nearby, the East Haven Police Department first began using body cams two years ago, and now uses 53. According to Lt. Joseph Murgo, the EHPD’s public information officer, officers are recommended to use them on routine calls and investigations. And during motor vehicle stops and calls leading to a possibility of arrest, officers must switch their cameras on.
“The overall sentiment is that the body cameras are a god send and we can’t believe we didn’t adopt the technology sooner,” Murgo said. “It has helped us in our investigations, and it has helped mitigate complaints. It also ensures both officer and civilians’ behavior is documented in an unbiased way.”
Footage from the cameras, which can be accessed with a Freedom of Information request, has been used in court disputes by both police and civilians. The footage also assists officers in providing an accurate police report and helps supervisors monitor the force’s behavior.
Still, members of the department were hesitant when first adopting body cameras, though officials as a whole now embrace them. Several local police departments have also already put body cameras in place or are in the process of acquiring them, such as in New Haven.
“Body cameras will be the norm in every police department in the next five to 10 years and soon we won’t know life without them,” Murgo said. “Once officers realize there are way more pros than cons, they will accept them.”
But according to a statement in August by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, only 12 of the over 100 law enforcement agencies in the state have applied for a state grant to pay for body cameras, suggesting that many departments are not yet ready for the change.
Nationwide, nearly 95 percent of major police departments plan to implement body cams in the near future, according to a survey conducted January by the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association.
The Hamden and East Haven police departments use the Taser brand of body cameras.
Sergey Kislyak has served as Russia’s ambassador to the United States since 2008. He got his start working on arms control issues at the Soviet embassy in Washington during the Reagan administration. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Kislyak has held the posts of Russia’s ambassador to Belgium and, simultaneously, Russia’s first permanent ambassador to NATO and deputy minister to foreign affairs. Although Kislyak prefers to work in intimate settings and avoid the limelight, Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year and the current crisis in eastern Ukraine have thrust Kislyak into the public eye. As the U.S. continues to levy far-reaching sanctions against Russia and considers arming the Ukrainian forces, Kislyak represents one of Russia’s few remaining links to the Obama administration. He sat down with WKND to discuss the current crisis in eastern Ukraine, the downfall of the Russian ruble, and Russian and American cultural misconceptions.
Q: Earlier today, you mentioned that both your father and mother were born in Ukraine. How does your connection to Ukraine inform how you talk about this situation, and how you understand these foreign policy issues?
A: Well, first and foremost I am a Russian citizen. Secondly, I am a Russian ambassador, so what is important to me are the views of my people and of my country on this issue, which I fully share. Being Ukrainian—ethnic Ukrainian—just makes it even more painful to watch what is happening [in the Crimea]. It doesn’t change my view as to what is happening. But certainly when I see kids marching with SS division insignia on their sleeves in the streets, I cannot watch it without emotions.
Q: We’re seeing this rising tide of anti-Semitism in Russia, and now you say you’re seeing SS insignia on kids. Do you think that these issues—the rise of neo-Fascism and anti-Semitism in Europe, and what you’re seeing in Ukraine — are connected?
A: I’m not the best specialist on these issues, but I would say it’s certainly a sentiment that is so unacceptable, whether it’s from nationalists or not. It’s unacceptable under any circumstances, and I hope that Ukraine will try to avoid that kind of spread. I have seen some concern expressed by the Israeli government about those things. But my sincere hope is that [the Ukrainians] wouldn’t fall in the trap of being anti-Semitic.
Q: There’s been much talk, at least among the Western news sources, about a fear that this could turn into a frozen conflict.
A: I hope not! Our view is that there has to be a negotiated solution. People in Donetsk and Lugansk Republics [the self-proclaimed rebel republics in southeast Ukraine] seem to have said so many times that they want to start building common spaces with Ukraine. It’s a difficult dialogue that they were willing to undertake. Certainly when people start talking, they start with small things, but I think there are all the chances that if both Kiev and people in the east started working on how they could live together in this part of the world, they do have a chance to succeed. However, with each and every day, the Ukrainian government makes it more and more difficult to start that dialogue. They need to stop shelling and start talking, something I repeat in each and every conversation with Ukraine.
Q: Yet, there’s a belief in the U.S. that the Russian government is funding and giving heavy arms to these rebels, particularly through these so-called humanitarian convoys.
A: You know, our Ukrainian colleagues tend to explain their own failures on the military field by referring to an alleged military campaign by Russia in the region. It’s nonsense. They are facing people who live there, protecting their lives and their families, and they call them “terrorists,” but these people do not go to Kiev and do not bomb Kiev. They live in the eastern part, and I know it. They want to have a right to speak the language they have spoken and their fathers and their grandfathers have spoken, to teach Russian kids in these schools tradition in the same way that generations of the people that were living there were doing, which is not contradictory to being a Ukrainian citizen, it is not. But one has to start working together as to how they would live, and with each and every day of additional war, it’s getting more and more difficult. We still believe it’s possible, however difficult it’s going to be.
Q: With regard to misconceptions, you spoke earlier about how you strongly disagree with the notion that Russia and the U.S. are now in some kind of “new Cold War” Is there the misconception, in your eyes, among ordinary Russians that we might be engaged in some kind of “new Cold War”?
A: No, I haven’t seen the use of the term “Cold War” in public debates in Russia. People are more discussing how unfriendly the policy the United States is today towards Russia, but I’m not sure that anybody of importance would suggest that we are back in the Cold War. Because the Cold War was a state of affairs that was based on a very deep ideological divide. At that time it was considered to be almost existential. I don’t believe anything of this sort is happening. We have very difficult differences between us and the United States. They’re difficult, and they are deep. But I’m still hopeful that we will bit by bit find a solution to the crisis in the region, and that would be a building block for a return to what I would call normalcy in our relations.
Q: Is there a current fear that, with the ongoing downfall of the ruble, many migrants may not come to Russia anymore, because they want to seek opportunities elsewhere?
A: Well, most probably it’s going to be the case. However, still the purchasing power of the ruble in Russia is pretty high. [The declining value of remittances] is something they’re going to have to deal with, but still there are so many people who want to come to Russia because the standard of living in Russia is significantly higher. And though the dollar equivalent fell, what is important to us – those who live in Russia—is not how [the ruble]is rated against the dollar but whether we have inflation in Russia. You earn Russian rubles: you spend Russian rubles. There is some inflation, and for the government, for the banking system, for the national bank of Russia, the main target of the efforts is not necessarily the exchange rate but to fight unlimited inflation.
Q: How might the recent decline of the ruble, particularly due to the global drop in oil prices, impact Russia’s ability to withstand the current sanctions regime?
A: Well first of all, we have certainly been victimized by the fall of the oil prices, because, as I told you, one of the handicaps of our economy is our richness in oil and gas. And we are over-relying on exports as a source of the income for the country. We understood it even before the crisis. We started a number of programs that we called diversification of the economy. I’m absolutely sure that all of these efforts to diversify the economy are going to be intensified, and we will not only survive it, but we will come out of it a little bit stronger.
Q: You’ve worked in the United States for quite some time. What do you think are the some of the most common misconceptions that Americans have about Russians?
A: It depends very much on which Americans you are talking about. There are many people who have been to Russia, who know us, and they have views, but the absolute majority doesn’t know much about Russia. In general, Americans are not concentrated on foreign relations with other countries. They are more focused on immediate events around their families, their income, and politics on the ground. I would say that not many know for a fact what Russia is, and I always underline what Russia is not. They have to rely on the press reports, which, as I said during my presentation, [are] very disappointing.
Q: In contrast, do you notice that Russians have a specific view of the United States? And do you think that Russians think more about foreign policy on the whole than Americans do?
A: Yes, we do. You do not live in isolation, but you live [surrounded by] oceans, [separated] from Europe. We were a part of Europe, and we have lived through so many wars. The political life [in Russia] is so intertwined with Europe, and we are part of Europe. [Foreign policy] more immediately affects our lives than here in the United States, so people tend to watch and monitor what is happening around our country a little bit more. And I would submit that if you took normal Russians — especially your generation — and asked questions about the United States, most probably, in the majority of cases, they [would] know about the United States a little bit more than people of your generation [would] know about Russia. And it’s sad, because I think what is important for building relations is to fully understand the other partner.
Q: If youth are growing up with these misconceptions, how might that impact the U.S.-Russia relationship in the years to come?
A: I think one of the most important things for the future is how the youth in both countries see each other. As an ambassador here, I’m trying to work with the younger generation of Americans, trying to help them to understand what we are, and, once again, what we are not. We do run a number of programs, whereby we try to help [American students]form their own view about Russian culture, Russian history. It’s very helpful because they are very clever people. They’re young but willing to learn, to form their own views, and I think it’s exactly what we all need. We have a very smart young generation, very advanced, very well educated — the level of education in Russia is pretty outstanding, and especially in math, physics, chemistry. As far as I’m concerned, the more they get together, the more they exchange views, the better it would be for the future of our relations. I deeply believe in it, and as an ambassador, I’m trying to help this process.
Q: Do you have any favorite American books or films?
A: Well, to be honest, I haven’t had the chance to read modern American literature. My time is so limited. I read mostly reports, articles, statements — that’s a drawback of my position — but I’m collecting things to read when I have a chance. I think of the young generation of writers, the best one, as far as I’m concerned, is Hemingway — I still love him. I went to places where he lived, trying to understand him better. He was pretty unique. I’m not reading too much of the James Bond-type books, but I think it is important that America is certainly a very rich country and culture. However, we [Russians] have a deeper history and most probably we have all the reasons to be proud of the level of Russian intellectual development. And I’m so glad to see that many Americans know Russian literature pretty well. Though they sometimes do not know modern literature very well, they know Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, which is good, because it gives at least a glimpse of the Russian soul.
Q: Are there any Russian writers that you would recommend Americans read in order to learn more about Russia?
A: There are so many. We have a very strong musical culture, literature. We see a resurrection of the Russian cinema industry, which is pretty good. So that’s hopeful. But returning to the question about American arts, what I see happening is that we have the best of Russian culture represented here, but not the best of American culture represented in Russia. That’s disappointing. We can use more of that. The only good musical performance recently that I remember is the Chicago Symphony touring in Russia, and it’s the only one in so many years. However, we have the Bolshoi performing in the U.S., the Mariinsky Theater currently [in America, too.]. Yesterday I went to the Metropolitan [Opera]. There was an absolutely amazing performance of Iolanta conducted by Mr. Gergiev, who is the artistic director of the Mariinsky, Anna Netrebko singing, Russian singers. It was [such a] beautiful Russian-American performance — and staged by a Pole. I love the idea of people collaborating together to create something fantastically interesting. That’s something that needs to be expanded.
Editor’s Note: On Feb. 27th, WKND published an interview with Yuriy Sergeyev, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations. In this interview, Sergeyev responds to Ambassador Kislyak’s comments on the Crimean Crisis.
Anyone who ever gave money to Barack Obama paid a price far steeper than his or her donation. You know what I’m talking about. Those emails. The ones that arrived every day — every hour, sometimes — nonstop, for months. Did I want to get dinner with the president and Sarah Jessica Parker? Did I want to give yet more money? Did I know an FEC filing deadline was coming up, so I really should give money? Scott, you haven’t given money in awhile, is everything ok? (Actually.)
Apparently, this strategy — annoying as it was — worked. Apparently, there is hard data to back it up. Ever wonder how political scientists gather these data? I hadn’t either. But then I read “The Victory Lab” by Sasha Issenberg, and, I have to say, I was intrigued. The book, remarkably, was approachable, entertaining and thoroughly informative. Kind of like a Michael Lewis book that I can actually understand.
Actually, speaking of Michael Lewis, his book, “The Big Short,” is a good counterweight for “The Victory Lab.” “The Big Short” — a story of the 2008 financial crisis — is funny, fascinating and full of far too many financial terms for me, but its main point seemed to be — look at all of these amazing weird people who knew the economy was going to crash — how could anyone have missed it? Evidently, only social outcasts and savants were able to predict the Great Recession, but for them it was obvious. “The Victory Lab” at first may seem to be the same sort of story. Each chapter was a sort of vignette, depicting a single campaign or political operative or tactic, and showing why it, more than anything or anyone else, triumphed.
But it isn’t. The takeaway message from “The Victory Lab” is actually that any political campaign — from city council in Peoria to the presidential bonanza — can exploit the information gathered by scientists. Anyone can use this information, and, if you aren’t, it’s all your fault and you are falling behind. You don’t have to be an oddball or a genius to see how to win elections. You just have to learn to listen to Yale professors.
That’s right. A significant chunk of the book focuses on the pioneering work of Yale political scientists Alan Gerber and Don Green. Gerber and Green are, some might say, the fathers of the get-out-the-vote tactic in politics. They revolutionized politics forever when they decided to study voter mobilization using randomized scientific experiments.
Because of their experiments, we know which is more effective — email, direct mail, phone calls or in-person canvassing? (Canvassing.) We know whom campaigns should target in get-out-the-vote. (Supporters, not undecideds.) More than that, we know exactly how effective pretty much every tactic is. Their experiments changed the study of politics forever.
But it’s not just them. Other chapters show how new data-mining techniques allow politicians to guess whom you (and your neighbors) will be voting for without ever having asked. What you watch on television, what you order through the mail, what bus you take to work, what kind of alcohol you drink — all of these things, when taken together, tell campaigns whether they should spend money targeting you or not. Scientific studies tell political operatives that simple mail is more effective than fancy mail, that getting people to plan their voting schedule is far more effective than simply telling them to vote, and on and on.
The most effective strategy to get you to vote? Sending your neighbors your voting history. (Whether you voted or not, not whom you voted for — the former is public information … who knew?) Obviously, campaigns are a little reluctant to be linked to this particularly tactic, but they are still exploiting this knowledge to send you scurrying to the polls.
The Victory Lab is actually a broad survey of many of the great innovations in political campaigns from the last century. But it also tells us a remarkable amount about today — why Rick Perry runs some of the most effective campaigns in the nation, why the Democrats actually beat expectations in nearly every 2010 Senate race and how the Obama campaign could predict — with some degree of certainty — the preferences of every single voter in the country.
We haven’t figured out politics entirely, of course. Polls are sometimes wrong. Get-out-the-vote is never going to be anywhere near 100 percent effective. Mitt Romney genuinely believed he was going to win. But, as Issenberg shows us, campaigns are getting more sophisticated (and definitely more manipulative) every day.
Perhaps most surprisingly, “The Victory Lab” is a good read. For a book so statistics-heavy, so genuine in its admiration of scientific experiments, it is remarkably enjoyable. Above all, it will help you understand with a little more sophistication exactly why Barack Obama was clogging up your inbox.
This semester, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks is back at Yale to teach two courses at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. WKND BLOG’s Foreign Dispatch correspondent Kiki Ochieng was able to catch up with Brooks, liberals’ favorite conservative (especially after his comments on the GOP last year), about the contradictions inherent in teaching a seminar on humility while co-teaching Grand Strategy. Is this meant to be irony or an exploration of two sides of the same coin? Is there any overlap? How do all the egos fit in the room? Brooks chatted with WEEKEND about the lack of moral arguments in contemporary politics, the need for diversity in political thought and America as a “pain-in-the-ass” superpower.
Q.One of your most quoted and referenced articles is your famous 2001 piece for “The Atlantic.” In that article, you describe the generation of college students born between 1979 and 1982 as the “organizational kid.” How do you think today’s generation compares to the students you profiled in that article?
A. I guess the first thing that’s the same is the amount of energy and pressure to succeed. I graduated from high school not in the top 40 percent of my high school class, [and] my GPA was extremely mediocre, but I could still get into the University of Chicago, undergrad. When I look at contemporary student resumes, not only was I not like that, but nobody I knew was like that. The pressures of meritocracy have continued to build, and now, the rewards for energy and early intelligence, or the kind of intelligence that blooms early, are higher and higher. I think those pressures are already ratcheted from when I wrote the article.
As far as the moral challenges that I describe, I think they’re still true. I don’t think this is just a big problem with people until 30 — I think this a big problem with people under 60. We’re sort of morally inarticulate. We’ve grown up in an era without a strong external moral code, and it’s hard to have moral arguments. We’re good at having arguments about neuroscience and how to succeed and how to make wise decisions. The language of virtue and vice and sin — all that has sort of drifted away from us.
Q.How do you think that factors into emotional education? You’ve touched on that subject in other columns.
A. The column about Bruce Springsteen? One of the things that is striking about the field of cognition is that it used to be that people didn’t pay attention to emotion in particular. They paid attention to reason and decision-making, but now we realize that reason isn’t the opposite of emotion. Emotion is the foundation of reason, and our emotions tell us what to value. Our emotions influence all sorts of cognitive processes. The older you get, the more you realize — especially if you’re a guy — the importance of an emotional repertoire. If you ask people, especially men, what they regret most in life, it’s that they weren’t emotionally open with their families. Even as you get into the world I live in, the emotionally avoidant world of politics and economics regimented on growth and budgets, I spend a lot of time myself, I think about emotions and reading novels and going to places like Yale to work on that side of the education.
Q.What influenced your decision to teach a course on “Humility”?
A. Well, the short answer is that I work in the most obnoxious, narcissistic profession ever. I’m perpetually spouting off, so humility is a concern of mine [laughs]. But I think a lot of people are like that, and we’re all forced to market ourselves and brand ourselves and win attention. Second, more generally, I do think over the last 50 years, there’s been a tremendous rise in self-esteem, which is measurable by a bunch of different statistics: the way we perform on narcissism tests, the rise in the number of people who think that someone should write a biography about them, the rising desire for fame. I do think there was a whole moral code 100 years ago built around humility, built around the sense that you’re an underdog, you’re struggling against your own weaknesses. I think we’ve lost touch with that tradition. The course is not designed to turn back the time, but to connect people — including me — with a moral tradition that includes St. Augustine and Edmund Burke and Dorothy Day. I think that it would be part of a good education to be familiar with these other traditions.
Q. Do you think that the lessons of your “Humility” course factor into how you’ve taught “Grand Strategy”?
A. Good question. The “Humility” course is people writing about internal struggles, struggles against your own weaknesses, and the “Grand Strategy” course is the course of that external struggle against enemies. There are some parallels there. Machiavelli believed you could have two moralities: the morality of your private life, where you could be nice and compassionate, and the morality of politics, where you have to be a ruthless bastard. I’m not sure if he’s right about that, but in both cases, you’re talking about how to be a good person in an ugly world.
Q.What place does idealism have in the American political scene, nowadays?
A. I guess I’m a believer in skeptical idealism. I’m a believer that we are all extremely limited creatures. When you do what I do and you spend your time around politicians, you realize that they never have the choice of a really good policy versus a really bad policy. They have a choice between an awful policy and an even more awful policy. They have to make these brutal decisions. Often, idealism doesn’t even come into it. They’re just trying to survive. One of my heroes, Michael Oakeshott, had this theory: Politics is like you’re on a ship, you’re in storm-tossed waters, you’re just trying to keep the ship upright. That’s what politicians are doing a lot of the time. I give them a lot of credit because everyone’s dumping all over them and they are faced with horrible choices and very constrained power. One of the things I observe as I watch, say, President Obama — as all presidents, he learned how the office seems really powerful, but very often their power and their ability to implement change is extremely limited.
Q.Does America have a superiority complex? If it didn’t, would its actions abroad be different?
A. All great nations have a superiority complex. I really have no taste for nations that don’t think they’re great, so I like the French. Everyone else hates the French and their arrogance. I like their arrogance. I covered Europe for a long time, and grew to respect them because they just think they’re a great nation. I was at dinner last night with a senior foreign policy official and this person was saying that all these theories that we’re in decline, that people don’t respect us as much as they used to or that we don’t have as much influence, are not reality at all. We have our troubles, but every other country has even worse troubles. We’re still the big dog on the block. I think we’re bound to be a superpower for a long time. We’re going to be the kind of superpower we’ve always been, which is a pain in the ass for everybody but genuinely a force for good.
Q.We’ve talked a bit about morality and politics. How does the use of drones change warfare and what new moral perspective does that mean we have to consider?
A. That’s a classic case of what policy is like. When you talk to people in the military, they say that drones are just so damn effective. You’re president of the United States. Every day you get an intelligence briefing that says this person is trying to launch a bombing raid, this person is trying to kill Americans, that person is trying to blow up an airplane. You’ve got a few options. Option A is to do nothing and hope you can stop them at the TSA gate at the airport. Option B is to do some bombing strike. Option C is to send in special forces, but special forces don’t work the way they do in the movies. You can’t just send in eight people. You probably have to send in 500 people. Option D is to send in a drone. Of those four options, Option D seems like the best one — or the least bad. Now, having said that, because I am the sort of person who distrusts myself and others, I would like to see oversight. I’m a believer that we should have a court, overseen and appointed by Congress, that oversees the president’s authority, or at least who gets on the kill list.
Q.Many people complain about polarization and how we don’t see any bipartisan bills being pushed forward. Do you see the polarization of American politics increasing or decreasing as today’s youth move into positions of power?
A. My view is that polarization goes in cycles. For example, the Revolutionary War period was highly polarized. My hero Alexander Hamilton was killed by the vice president, which was a polarized act. The Civil War period obviously was. We’ve had 30 or 40 years of pretty great polarization. I have to think that it’s going to burn itself out. Maybe it’s in the process, with the last election, of burning itself out.
Having said that, there is still a lot of geographic polarization. People moving into neighborhoods of people just like themselves. There’s a lot of academic polarization — people going to colleges filled with people just like themselves. It’s not evident or obvious that the era of polarization is ending. But eventually, you just get sick of it and have a big fiscal crisis which forces you to compromise.
Immediately after Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21, the State Department’s legal adviser, Harold Hongju Koh, returned to Yale. Koh served as the dean of Yale Law School from 2004 to 2009 and as a professor there since 1985. Last week, he was appointed Ster- ling Professor of International Law. Koh, who had been a strong critic of President George W. Bush’s ’68 “War on Terror,” is an interna- tionally renowned scholar of human rights. However, in the Obama administration, he has come under fire from former allies for his expan- sive views on the president’s authority to use unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists abroad. On Tuesday, Koh spoke at a packed Master’s Tea in Davenport. Hours before that, WEEKEND sat down with Koh to discuss executive authority, drones and who he wants to see fill the next opening on the Supreme Court.
Q.I have been told that as a professor you were a strong critic of overly broad executive power. In 1990, you wrote a brief challenging President George H. W. Bush’s ’48 authority to fight in the Gulf War, and in 1992 and ’93, you sued the United States government and the president. How has your work in the executive branch under President Barack Obama changed your views on executive power, if at all?
A. It hasn’t changed my views at all. I believe in a government of checks and balances. And I believe that an energetic executive is an important piece of that. I think that the thing that’s changed the most is just a political fact, which is that Congress has had much more difficulty constructively engaging on these questions. In most countries in the world, the legislature can pass a budget or make sure you don’t default on your debt, and [Congress’s failure to do these things] is increasingly becoming a problem in this country. So, the executive obviously has to act according to constitutional rules, and if you’re going to do so in cooperation with Congress, so much the better.
Q.Speaking of executive power, in 2009, you became the legal adviser to the State Department. In that capacity, in May of 2010, you said that using drone strikes against al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations was a lawful military action and not an assassination, which is banned by executive order. Can you explain to an undergraduate audience the distinction between legal targeted killings and illegal assassinations?
A. What occurs in the context of an armed conflict or war is not assassination. If a general of the Japanese government launches an attack at Pearl Harbor and kills thousands of Americans, we declare war on the country, and, in the course of the conflict, he’s one of the people who’s considered to be an enemy leader, then that is a lawful use of force. All killing is tragic. But there is a different between lawful and unlawful tools of war. So, 3,000 are killed in New York for going to work, by leaders of a nonstate actor, and the question is, can you respond to those leaders, after Congress has declared war on them and after we’re in an armed conflict with them?
Q.Yet while you were a professor you criticized George W. Bush’s ’68 “War on Terror” as unconstitutional because it involved capturing “enemy combatants” abroad and holding them without trial at Guantanamo Bay. In Obama’s administration, the government has used aerial drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists. To the casual observer, it seems like there’s a tension between denouncing imprisonment and supporting drone strikes (which can have collateral civilian casualties). Can you explain what appears to be a contradiction?
A. Torture is always unlawful, even in wartime and even against your enemies. In an armed conflict, the laws of war police the line between lawful killing — which is of people you’re at war with, like Osama bin Laden — and unlawful ones. And so, you can be opposed to torture in all situations, as an illegal means of the use of force — even in wartime. But if you think your government is engaged in a lawful armed conflict, it has to have the authorities that go along with it, lawfully.
Q.For almost two years, you were among the only Obama administration officials to speak publicly about the legal basis for aerial drone strikes to kill American enemies. You then justified the administration’s decision to engage in a conflict against Libya without congressional approval because the president does not need congressional approval to engage in “hostilities.” Because of these statements, a number of your old allies have publicly criticized you. Has the criticism from old friends and allies made you rethink any of your positions?
A. No. First of all, the two things you mentioned have gotten a lot more press than 95 percent of the way I actually spent my time. So I always find this interesting. But a simple fact is this: I’m not the only person who said that congressional approval wasn’t necessary. John Boehner said congressional approval wasn’t necessary. Harry Reid said congressional approval wasn’t necessary. Nancy Pelosi said congressional approval wasn’t necessary. And John Kerry, as chairman of the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee, said it wasn’t necessary. And Congress had made it clear that they would not approve what was going on, although they wanted the executive branch to do something. … My real question is: Was the War Powers Resolution, which was passed to stop future Vietnams, supposed to be used to allow more Rwandas and Srebrenicas? And my view was that was not the situation they were thinking of. I had written dozens of articles on the War Powers Resolution, and I understood the legislative history of it. We never said that the War Powers Resolution was unconstitutional. We just said it didn’t apply to that circumstance. And I, to this day, think it doesn’t.
Q.Over the last several years, whenever a new vacancy on the Supreme Court has opened up, your name has been raised to fill it. If you could choose one person other than yourself, who would be your dream nominee?
A. I think probably Hillary Clinton [LAW ’73].
Q.Would you care to explain why?
A. She’s a very smart lawyer who understands how law and politics work together. She might have other thoughts about how to spend her time, but she would be an obvious good candidate.
By the way, Barack Obama is not precluded, and he’ll be a pretty young guy who’s done with electoral office in four years, so that would be interesting. You know, William Howard Taft 1878 sat on the Supreme Court after he was president, so it’s not unprecedented.
Q.The Supreme Court has been in the news quite a lot in the last couple years, especially with the controversial Citizens United and Affordable Care Act cases. How do you feel about the overall direction of the court? Do you feel it is too partisan or too activist, too liberal or too conservative?
A. Well, it’s a very conservative court. I think that it’s different factions with one particular justice playing a swing role. So, as a result, it reaches some results in one direction and some results in another direction. I think, though, the thing that I worry about is that the Supreme Court decides many fewer cases, and there are large parts of American life and global life that it really has no opinion on. When you’re a first-year law student, you think that the Supreme Court occupies the world of law, and then when you’ve been the legal adviser of the State Department, it’s surprising how many issues you deal with in which the Supreme Court has absolutely nothing to say. That’s because of restrictions on its jurisdiction and its power to express views.
Q.Speaking of law schools, there is a proposal gaining traction in New York that would allow law students to sit for the bar after two years of law school — in other words, you wouldn’t need a J.D. Do you think that’s a good idea? What do you think would be the impact that would have on law schools?
A. I don’t think it’s a good idea. But you have to put this into perspective. There’s always been an apprenticeship route to taking the bar. In the old days, people graduated from college and they worked for a law office, and then they took the bar and they didn’t take any classes. So the rise of the professional law school, as a three-year entity, is very much a product of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
But I think law schools have done a lot better to become fuller experiences. It’s not just the study of legal rules, but it’s clinical practice, extracurricular activities, summer internships. I think that there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Q.Related to that, in 1985 you left the Justice Department and took a job teaching at Yale Law School. Why did you leave a job in public service and become a professor?
A. So, in Korea, there’s a term called “sun sang nim,” which means teacher. But it actually means more like Jedi Master. It’s a term of reverence. Teachers are the greatest thing in Asian culture. And it’s an easy decision to go be a teacher. My father once said to me the way you shape the future is by the students you teach. And this time when I left the State Department, I mentioned a movie called “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s about a guy who’s a music teacher who thinks his job is to write the great symphony, but he turns out teaching many students and his opus is actually the students he influenced. I feel the same way.
Maybe in your own life you don’t accomplish everything you personally would like to accomplish, but you can challenge students to think more broadly about their own futures, and then, who knows? At the end of your life, it’s all of the people who’ve been affected by the ideas you’ve tried to convey and what they accomplish that count. The law professors who taught Bill Clinton [LAW ’73], for whom I served in one administration, and Hillary Clinton, had an unbelievable impact, even though nobody remembers their names or what they taught them.