Thursday, April 30, 2009

Condoleezza Rice Invokes Presidential Infallibility To Justify Waterboarding

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks took Condoleezza Rice to task for her defense of torture that was, well, torturous. The former secretary of state is shown speaking to students at Stanford University:

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

Rice: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that's -- And by the way, 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. That's what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

Rice: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our 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. (h/t Think Progress)

Rice's statement, "I didn't authorize anything" contradicts recent Senate Intelligence Committee revelations that she played an active role in the implementation of waterboarding:

As national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice verbally approved the CIA's request to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002, the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to OK use of the simulated drowning technique.

Rice's role was detailed in a narrative released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA's harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.

The new timeline shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

...According to the new narrative, which compiles legal advice provided by the Bush administration to the CIA, Rice personally conveyed the administration's approval for waterboarding of Zubaydah, a so-called high-value detainee, to then-CIA Director George Tenet in July 2002.

Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed and asked for the attorney general to conduct a legal review. 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.

Note Rice's evasion of her responsibility in approving torture. She wasn't "authorizing," she was merely "conveying." Her role as secretary of state was merely to relay messages. The fact that waterboarding was approved after Rice spoke to Tenet is just a coincidence.

More Rice logic follows in her assertion of the legality of waterboarding by presidential decree through the following syllogism:

1) Bush states that we will obey our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.
2) Bush authorizes waterboarding.
3) The Convention Against Torture therefore sanctions waterboarding.

Rice is following the Republican doctrine of presidential infallibility: if the president approves it, it's legal. In an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, Dick Cheney endorses this authoritarian doctrine:

Wallace: ...If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?

Cheney: General proposition, I'd say yes...

In 1997, Richard Nixon told David Frost that his decrees were legal based on the fact that he uttered them:

Nixon: When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.

1 comment:

Joel Palmer said...

Works like papal infallability; oh wait he was a Hitler Youth