The following transcript starts around 5:40 in to the video embedded below. (Roble Hall, Stanford University, April 27th, 2009.) Big thanks to Renya Garcia !
Questioner: "Is water boarding 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."
Questioner: "Is water boarding torture, in your opinion."
Rice: "And I just said the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates are obligation 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."
The big point here is that, so far, I believe no one else has ever put GWB "in the room" when redefining torture was discussed. Rice seems to be making it clear that GWB was indeed the Decider, she just "conveyed the authorization".
There are many smaller things of interest here, not the least of which is the almost direct parallel of Nixon in the Nixon/Frost interviews finallly stating that, "if the President does it it’s not illegal."
Also of interest is "outside of our obligations, legal obligations…" This implies that Condi thought then or thinks now that there may have been some obligations other than the legal ones (moral and ethical perhaps) to which her statement does not pertain. Is she, by tightening her statement, showing that moral and ethical obligations were deliberately ignored, that the only concern was of legality? (Lets just make sure our asses are covered.) This question is of particular interest in light of the torture memo time lines and the origins of the SERE techniques which make it appear that the imperative for torture was not to protect the United States but to drum up false statements that would link Iraq to Al Queda which could be used to justify the administration’s desire for war.
Then there is the usage "the United States was told, we were told …" which is also interesting. It leads to several psychological questions: Why does Condi need to retrace, does she suddenly realize that the 5 or 6 people who the President "told" do not actually make up the entire United States. And if the President told the United States, what (in Condi’s mind) does that make the President? The answer to that, I think, is something supra to the United States. Was this actually how Condi thought of things when she was helping decide the fate of our nation; that GWB was essentially God and that a few select administrators were the United States? I think so!
One other oddity: "the Convention Against Torture". Why choose the U.N. Convention Against Torture when most people are more familiar with the Geneva Convention? Anyone familiar with the difference between the two documents? Is there more jeopardy for the past administration in relationship to the U.N . Convention than there is with the Geneva Convention?
Cross posted to Immersed Instincts