Dis­in­vited wit­ness

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

What hap­pened to Robert F. Turner two weeks ago un­for­tu­nately hap­pens all too of­ten on Capi­tol Hill, al­though one might ar­gue the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia pro­fes­sor — more than most wit­nesses called to tes­tify be­fore Congress — was in­con­ve­nienced tremen­dously by his ex­pe­ri­ence.

We’ll al­low Mr. Turner to speak for him­self, but for back­ground he was in­vited by Caleb Ros­siter of the House For­eign Af­fairs’ sub­com­mit­tee on in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, hu­man rights and over­sight to tes­tify at a hear­ing April 24 on war pow­ers in the 21st cen­tury. In­deed, his name re­mained on the wit­ness list that was still posted April 28 by the com­mit­tee.

A for­mer act­ing as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state in the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion and co-founder and as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor of the UVa. Cen­ter for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law, the pro­fes­sor has writ­ten two books on the War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion and tes­ti­fied on the is­sue many times over the decades be­fore var­i­ous con­gres­sional com­mit­tees.

“Since I had worked on war- pow­ers is­sues in the Pen­tagon, the White House and De­part­ment of State [. . .] I agreed to take part — know­ing that it would re­quire me to resched­ule one class and change my travel plans for a lec­ture tour in Cal­i­for­nia in or­der to fly back to Wash­ing­ton in time for the April 24 hear­ing,” Mr. Turner tells this col­umn.

At which point, Mr. Ros­siter “con­firmed the in­vi­ta­tion, emailed me an of­fi­cial let­ter of in­vi­ta­tion signed by the com­mit­tee chair­man, and sent me some ma­te­rial,” he says. “Think­ing that th­ese is­sues were im­por­tant, I can­celed vir­tu­ally all of my dis­cre­tionary ac­tiv­i­ties (in­clud­ing telling my 15-year-old son we could not at­tend the UVa.-Dart­mouth lacrosse game for which we al­ready had tick­ets) and worked into the early hours of the morn­ing, night af­ter night, writ- ing at my com­puter. Be­cause of my com­mit­ments to lec­ture in Cal­i­for­nia, I did all of the fi­nal writ­ing in ho­tel rooms.”

As re­quested, the pro­fes­sor on April 22 sent Mr. Ros­siter his tes­ti­mony “and he called me and asked me to make sev­eral changes [. . .] I fi­nally fin­ished the re­vi­sions to my pre­pared state­ment at 4 a.m. (Cal­i­for­nia time) on Wed­nes­day, April 23,” he says, adding it was more than 25,000 words and con­tained more than 100 foot­notes to pri­mary sources (e.g., the pa­pers of Jef­fer­son, Madi­son, Hamil­ton, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, John Locke, etc.) — “a rather de­tailed ef­fort to fully dis­cuss the is­sue and be re­spon­sive to a re­quest from Congress.

“Three hours and 20 min­utes later, at 7:20 a.m. Cal­i­for­nia time, my cell phone rang, and it was Mr. Ros­siter. He told me he didn’t know if I would con­sider it good news or bad news, but that he had shown my state­ment to the chair­man — Rep. Bill De­lahunt [Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat] — and the chair­man had ex­plained that the Repub­li­can mi­nor­ity had in­sisted at the last minute on in­clud­ing a ‘new’ wit­ness (who is an old friend of mine).

“In or­der to ‘ac­com­mo­date the mi­nor ity,’ the chair­man was forced to trim the wit­ness list and had de­cided to ‘dis­in­vite’ me to tes­tify,” he says. “Just out of cu­rios­ity, I tele­phoned and e-mailed the staff of the rank­ing Repub­li­can [. . .] and was as­sured that he had noth­ing to do with my in­vi­ta­tion (I had been se­lected by the Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity, which had al­ways been my un­der­stand­ing), and he added that the ‘new’ wit­ness had been sched­uled for weeks to be the one wit­ness al­lowed for the mi­nor­ity [. . .]

“Al­though I’ve been around Wash­ing­ton long enough not to be shocked, I don’t much like to be lied to by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple. I also don’t like it when rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple use their power to cen­sor im­por­tant ideas with which they per­son­ally may dis­agree. Chair­man De­lahunt had no duty to in­vite me to tes­tify, but he did — and in an ef­fort to be fully re­spon­sive I dis­rupted an al­ready very busy life and spent dozens of hours work­ing late into the night to try to ex­plain the views he had sought for his hear­ing and to doc­u­ment them.”

Mr. Turner says the “bot­tom line” of his tes­ti­mony was ap­par­ently not what Mr. De­lahunt an­tic­i­pated: “I showed how con­gres­sional ‘law­break­ing’ (seiz­ing pow­ers the Found­ing Fa­thers ex- plained were vested ex­clu­sively in the pres­i­dent) had done se­ri­ous harm to our coun­try, in­clud­ing [. . .] mak­ing it eas­ier for Osama bin Laden to suc­ceed on 9/11.

“I called the War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion a ‘hoax’ on the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he says.

Reached April 28, Mr. Ros­siter, who is coun­selor to Mr. De­lahunt, de­nied the in­vi­ta­tion was re­scinded for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

“Ab­so­lutely deny,” he says. “There is no an­i­mus from the con­gress­man [. . .] no re­flec­tion on the tes­ti­mony. We need strong ar­gu­ments on both sides.”

He added that the chair­man or­dered Mr. Turner’s pre­pared tes­ti­mony be en­tered into the “of­fi­cial tran­script” of the hear­ing.

“Things get com­pli­cated,” Mr. Ros­siter stressed. “I’ve been bounced off talk shows. It hurts.”

Said the pro­fes­sor: “Un­for­tu­nately, it’s more sad than amus­ing. If the stakes were not so se­ri­ous, I’d pre­fer to make jokes about it.”

Here’s a link to the sub­mit­ted tes­ti­mony: http://www.vir­ginia.edu/cnsl/pdf/Turner-War­Pow­ers-in-21stCen­tur yApril08.pdf

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