Web Only / Features » November 14, 2007
Rudy Guiliani: Criminal or Liar?
An investigation into Guiliani’s claims of familiarity with “intensive questioning” techniques
Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani raised serious questions about his record as a public servant when he announced on television that he had used “intensive questioning techniques” on New York mobsters and other criminals, and that his brand of intensive interrogation was difficult to differentiate from torture.
Giuliani put on his best tough-guy act in an interview with Al Hunt on “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” which aired on Nov. 2:
I can’t say that I [know more about torture than Sen. John McCain], but I do know a lot about intensive questioning and intensive questioning techniques. After all, I have had a different experience than John. John has never run city, never run a state, never run a government. He has never been responsible as a mayor for the safety and security of millions of people, and he has never run a law enforcement agency, which I have done. Now, intensive questioning works. If I didn’t use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of mafia guys running around New York right now and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is. Intensive question has to be used. Torture should not be used. The line between the two is a difficult one.
Taken at face value, these are shocking revelations. Was Giuliani implying that he conducted these interrogations while he was Mayor? Or perhaps when he was the number three official in the Reagan Justice Department? The references to “mafia guys” and the New York crime rate may be an attempt to evoke Giuliani’s career as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he made a name for himself as mafia-busting prosecutor.
In These Times called Giuliani’s press office seven times over the course of 48 hours, seeking clarification about his remarks. These calls and messages were unreturned as of press time.
It’s not clear exactly what techniques might fall under Giuliani’s rubric of “intensive questioning.” However, Giuliani said that the techniques that he favors are difficult to differentiate from torture.
It is far-fetched to think that Giuliani learned his enhanced interrogation techniques as mayor of New York.
“If Rudy is suggesting in any way that they used torture or aggressive interrogation in New York City then he is absolutely unfit to be president,” Giuliani’s former director of emergency management Jerry Hauer told the Huffington Post in an interview published on Nov. 6. Hauer added that local officials have no jurisdiction to torture anyone.
Giuliani’s alleged exploits don’t square with the policies and practices of the New York City Police Department, either.
“We are guided by what the constitution allows,” NYPD spokesman Sgt. Reginald Watkins told In These Times. “You can’t intimidate people into talking about a crime.”
Watkins explained that suspects in NYPD custody are under no obligation to talk and that they are entitled to have a lawyer present during questioning. Under no circumstances are police allowed to coerce people into answering questions.
When asked whether the NYPD officers are ever allowed to use physical pressure, Watkins seemed genuinely appalled.
“It goes without saying,” he said, “You cannot touch someone to get them to tell you about a crime.”
So, did Giuliani put the screws to the “mafia guys” as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District?
Recall that the mafia cases that made Giuliani famous were ordinary criminal prosecutions, not counter-terrorism operations. As a U.S. Attorney, Giuliani had no legal authority to order the “enhanced” interrogation any prisoner—where “enhanced” is defined beyond what’s already permitted as a matter of course.
One former Justice Department Official who served during Giuliani’s tenure in the Reagan administration dismissed the idea that Giuliani made routine use of any kind of enhanced interrogation techniques. The official explained that any prisoners awaiting trial on federal charges would be in the custody of the FBI, not the U.S. Attorney office. They would have been interviewed according to FBI rules, which also acknowledge the prisoner’s constitutional rights. Ultimately, the agents of the Bureau take their orders from the Attorney General, not from the US Attorney.
At most, Giuliani might have been in a position to urge the FBI officers assigned to his office to question a suspect more intensively, but only within a strict framework of constitutional safeguards.
Lawyers take an oath to uphold the constitution. If Giuliani knowingly violated the constitutional rights of suspects, he could be disbarred.
Introducing coercion into a domestic prosecution would also be incredibly short-sighted because any information extracted by such techniques would be inadmissible in court. If Giuliani had ordered unconstitutional interrogation methods, he could have destroyed years of painstaking legal work.
If confessions were being extracted by torture under Giuliani, attorneys for the defendants would likely have filed motions to suppress those confessions. No such motions came to light during numerous searches of legal databases.
Giuliani says his techniques helped bring the crime rate down. If he used these methods routinely, one might expect some record of complaints. Our investigation turned up none. A spokeswoman for the New York Civil Liberties Union said the organization was not aware of any complaints of torture lodged against Giuliani.
In all likelihood, Giuliani’s claims about intensive interrogation techniques are merely idle boasts. For Giuliani’s sake, let’s hope he’s simply lying, rather than admitting that he committed criminal acts while he was a high-ranking public official.
Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.