Condoleezza Rice on NPR: U.S. Does Not Torture

It’s unbelievable. Condi Rice flat-out lied in this NPR radio interview (audio snip starts automatically), in which Michele Kelemen questions Rice about closing Guantanamo, and the Bush administration’s torture policies in general:

Q: The State Department lawyers have been working in recent years to deal with prisoners in Guantanamo Bay — detainees — to get them home. Do you think the Obama Administration is going to have a hard time keeping its pledge to close down Guantanamo given what you know about this process?

RICE: Well, the President, President Bush, wanted to close down Guantanamo and said that he wanted to do so. It’s not easy, because there are some very dangerous people there. There are people who have said to prison officials, If I get out of here, I’m going to go kill Americans as quickly as I can. Well, those are not people that you want to let out on the street. We’ve had a very active program. We’ve reduced the Guantanamo population. We’ve returned a lot of people to their countries of origin. We’re trying to do that in a responsible way so that we don’t return people to places where there are questions about how they would be treated, which has been, for instance, the issue with the Uighurs and relocation of the Uighurs. So it’s not so easy, but I believe that it will be closed in time, and it’s just a matter of doing so in a safe and responsible way.

Q: And Guantanamo wasn’t sort of the only issue that tarnished the U.S. image. There is also the treatment of terror suspects, waterboarding, other methods of torture or –

RICE: Well, you know that I’m going to have to object, because the United States has always kept to its international obligations, which include international obligations on the Convention on Torture. The United States, the President, was determined after September 11th to do everything that was legal and within those obligations, international and domestic laws, to make sure that we prevented a follow-on attack.

Amid the mountains of documentation that demonstrate what a bald-faced lie that is, here is the declassified March 2003 memo that was released to the American Civil Liberties Union on April 1, 2008, as the result of the ACLU’s lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. In the memo, which is over 80 pages, its author, John Yoo, says, in essence, that the president of the United States “has unlimited power to order brutal interrogations to extract information from detainees,” and that those responsible cannot be held legally accountable if the stated purpose of the torture (a word, of course, that is never explicitly used) is to prevent terrorism:

In the memo released today, Yoo writes: “If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network.” The memo goes on to say, “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

Yoo also states that torture in the context of interrogations conducted by American officials is defined by intent rather than the act itself. Essentially, what Yoo’s analysis boils down to is this: Regardless of how much physical or mental pain or suffering is inflicted on the person being interrogated, if the interrogator did not have the explicit intent to inflict that pain (i.e., if the interrogator claims the intent was to get information from the prisoner, not specifically to cause pain), there is no torture, and no liability on the part of the interrogator or his or her superiors.

Needless to say, this is a totally made-up standard; it exists nowhere outside of Yoo’s mind — and certainly not in the Convention Against Torture, which defines torture as follows:

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Note that the CAT also prohibits sending prisoners to countries that are known to practice torture, and that the Bush administration itself openly acknowledged waterboarding (forcible drowning pulled back before the point of death) at least three detainees in U.S. custody.

4 Responses to “Condoleezza Rice on NPR: U.S. Does Not Torture”

  1. dave says:

    I listened to that interview, and was quite angry when I heard Secretary Rice say that the United States never tortured anyone. My thought was, “why are you letting her lie like that?”

    But the interview was partisan, in that no-one would ever expect a Bush crony to say anything else until after they have left the Bush administration. If NPR did not want her to lie, they should not have asked the question.

  2. me says:

    A Bushie lies again. Move along now – there’s no news here.

  3. Meridian says:

    No one has picked up on the weasel words that John Yoo, a despicable but clever lawyer, placed in his opinion:

    The key sentence reads: “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

    Note that Yoo writes “we believe THAT HE COULD ARGUE….” What Yoo does not write is “we believe that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the national from attack justified his actions.”

    Lawyers choose their words carefully. Yoo’s insertion of the phrase “he could argue” was intended to prevent him from having to explicitly render an opinion on the legality of “brutal” interrogations. Instead, he suggests the matter is “arguable,” as is almost anything.

  4. Condoleeza Rice, under Canadian law, is a “credibly suspected” unindicted war criminal. As such her scheduled appearance at the University of Calgary on May 13, 2009 is illegal. By law, Canada is compelled to either bar war criminal suspects from entry or prosecute them. Because the government is led by neocon puppet collaborators of the US, this hasn’t happened. Recently George Bush himself visited Calgary on March 17. Not only was he admitted despite attempted legal interventions to prevent it, but a citizen who attempted to arrest Bush, was himself charged. Furthermore, anti-war activist and British MP George Galloway was refused entry to Canada on the basis of being a “terrorist sympathizer” for his recent humanitarian support. There is a real battle up here to push this neocon, US puppet act of our government back. Please support in any way you can and spread the word.
    JC

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