Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under George Bush, was recently confronted by Stanford students on the question of torture and her role in the authorization of the practice of waterboarding.
A very nervous and flustered Rice:
“I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency [CIA] that they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department’s clearance.” That was in July, 2002. Watch the 7 minute video.
Rice could have refused to authorize waterboarding and told her boss. That is if she thought that it was torture. However, she did authorize the CIA’s use of it, thereby becoming part of the process of validating this method of interrogation.
And to the question, Is waterboarding torture?, Rice replied:
“By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it didn’t violate our obligations under the Convention against Torture.”
All she had to say was that waterboarding is not torture but she didn’t. Her answer was a sign that she could not comfortably and logically defend waterboarding. So, in effect, what she said made no sense. Even PH.Ds have problems when cornered.
Or was she thinking about Richard Nixon’s response to charges that his actions were against the law back in the Watergate days:
“If the president does it, it’s not illegal.”
But she did not answer the question, is waterboarding torture.
The Associated Press notes that released memos (04/23/09) show “that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.”
McClatchy: “The Director of Central Intelligence in the spring of 2003 sought a reaffirmation of the legality of the interrogation methods. Cheney, Rice, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and White house counsel Alberto Gonzales were among those at a meeting where it was decided that the policies would continue.”
But, “Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee ONLY that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed. She said she did not recall details. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee.”
“Days after Rice gave Tenet the nod, the Justice Department approved the use of waterboarding in a top secret Aug. 1 memo. Zubaydah underwent waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002.
There is a history in which the United States government has taken action against those who used waterboarding for interrogation:
A few examples from The Trial of a Waterboarder:
“During the Spanish-American War, a U.S. solder, Major Edwin Glenn, was suspended from command for one month and fined $50 for using “the water cure”. In his review, the Army judge advocate said the charges constituted ‘resort to torture with a view to extort a confession”. He recommended disapproval because ‘the United States cannot afford to sanction the addition of torture.”
“After World War II a war crimes tribunal “charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for waterboarding a U.S. civilian.” His sentence-15 years of hard labor.
“On the front page of the Jan. 21, 1968 issue of The Washington Post, a photo showed ‘a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced “a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk.” The Army investigated and gave the soldier a court martial two months later.
I hope Dr. Rice can utilize the many resources at her disposal to find the answer to the question about whether or not waterboarding is torture. Just remember that “I was just following orders” was rejected as an excuse some time ago.