Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice was forced into a contradiction of Bush Assministration policy on torture yesterday…
”As a matter of U.S. policy,” Rice said the United Nations Convention against Torture ”extends to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the U.S. or outside the U.S.”
The U.N. treaty also prohibits treatment that doesn’t meet the legal definition of torture, including many practices that human rights organizations say were used routinely at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Bush administration has previously said the ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment did not apply to Americans working overseas. In practice, that meant CIA employees could use methods in overseas prisons that would not be allowed in the United States.
…yet even her admission that international laws and the treaty obligations of the United States do apply has not prevented her charm offensive from becoming a miserable failure.
“I think what she means is, ‘We don’t use it as an official way to do things, but we don’t look at what is done in other countries,’ ” Monika Griefahn, a Social Democratic member of Parliament, said in regard to Ms. Rice’s comment on torture. “And that’s the problem for us.”
Ms. Griefahn also expressed skepticism about Ms. Rice’s assurance that where mistakes are made – presumably in Mr. Masri’s case – the United States will do everything in its power to rectify them. Indeed, Bush administration officials said nothing about rectifying mistakes before reports of Mr. Masri’s kidnapping.
“I don’t believe they wanted to do anything to rectify the al-Masri case,” Ms. Griefahn said.
In Britain, members of Parliament from both parties reacted with even greater skepticism to Ms. Rice’s statement, saying it had neither answered their questions nor allayed their concerns about American policy.
“It’s clear that the text of the speech was drafted by lawyers with the intention of misleading an audience,” Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament, said in an interview. Mr. Tyrie is chairman of a recently formed nonpartisan committee that plans to investigate claims that the British government has tacitly condoned torture by allowing the United States to use its airspace to transport terrorist suspects to countries where they are subsequently tortured.
Andrew Mullin, a Labor member of Parliament, said he had found Ms. Rice’s assertions “wholly incredible.” He agreed with Mr. Tyrie that Ms. Rice’s statement had been “carefully lawyered,” adding: “It is a matter of record that people have been kidnapped and have been handed over to people who have tortured them. I think their experience has to be matched against the particular form of language the secretary of state is using.”