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Condoleezza Rice: It Wasn't Torture (Because the President Ordered It)

Two days ago, we flashed back to the 2003 legal framework for the Bush Administration's authorisation of torture (Mora: "Are you saying the President has the authority to order torture?”; White House lawyer John Yoo: "Yes"). In case you thought that was simply a rogue comment, consider this exchange between a questioner and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Stanford University (it begins at about 0:58 in the clip):


In case you didn't catch it, Rice says, "the president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture....And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture."

In other words, Bush's supposed word absolved his officials of any necessity to consider US or international law, let alone ethics and morality, in the discussion from waterboarding to sleep deprivation to confinement in small boxes to the throwing of detainees against walls.

And, incidentally, Rice is also splitting hairs in her other defense, "I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department's clearance." Set this against the recently-released findings of the Senate Armed Services Committee:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was then the National Security Advisor, said that, "In the spring of 2002, CIA sought policy approval from the National Security Council (NSC) to begin an interrogation program for high-level al-Qaida terrorists." Secretary Rice said that she asked Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to brief NSC Principals on the program and asked the Attorney General John Ashcroft "personally to review and confrrm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel".

Policy approval. If Rice and her colleagues say no in the spring of 2002 to the CIA's request, then the torture does not proceed. It was their approval, however, that launched the range of techniques that were first applied to detainees at Guantanamo Bay and, eventually, in Iraq in prisons like Abu Ghraib.

Reader Comments (3)

I was kind of hoping she would come back to Alabama and run for governor so we could have all this stuff solidly entered into the public record against her but no...her legacy for the most part is secure.

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterUJ

She might yet realise her dream of becoming the first NFL Commissioner to authorise torture.

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Dunn

I have yet to hear any good reason why the detention center at Guantanamo should be closed. --- "The school is bad, so close the buildings." --- What's the point??

May 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave

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