Ex officials warn that U.S. policies threaten repression

Wednesday July 17, 2002

CORONADO — Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and former FBI and CIA chief William Webster challenged administration policies dealing with terrorism suspects Tuesday, and Christopher warned that secrecy threatens to lead America down a path to repression. 

The former officials spoke to hundreds of judges at the 9th U.S. Circuit’s annual conference where controversy also swirled around a recent decision holding a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. 

In a panel discussion of national security and civil rights, Christopher raised the specter of the kind of repression once common in Argentina. 

“When I was in the Carter administration, I was in Argentina and I saw mothers in the streets protesting, asking for the names of those being held, those who had disappeared,” Christopher said. 

“We must be very careful in this country of not holding people without revealing their names. It leads to the ’disappeared,”’ he said. “The names of people should be revealed so that relatives will know what has become of their loved ones. It’s a good precaution against having the ’disappeared.”’ 

Christopher’s comments came during a presentation in which Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan posed a hypothetical situation in which an Arab student is detained by authorities. 

The administration spokesman, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh was challenged by Christopher after he said that detainees were being given extensive information on their rights including the right to have lawyers. 

“I wonder if you would be willing to make the name (of the man detained) available to the press,” Christopher said. 

Dinh replied: “We would not provide a list of persons of interest to us.” 

But after Christopher’s loudly applauded warning about “the disappeared,” Dinh said, “That is such great advice and one I take to heart.”