Not sidestepping controversy, Condoleezza Rice will defend the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation and rendition program at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Thursday.
The remarks will appear in a five-minute video presentation, which was obtained by Foreign Policy in advance of the dedication. In the clip, Rice emphasizes Bush’s deep commitment to civil liberties and national security while making "difficult decisions" following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She also claims the interrogation program prevented future attacks on the homeland.
"The president asked two very important questions in the decision to use these techniques," says Rice of her former boss’s interrogation program. "He asked the CIA if it was necessary and he asked the Justice Department if it was legal. Both departments answered yes."
"Only when he was satisfied that we could protect both our liberties and our security did he signal that we could go ahead," says the former secretary of state. "The fact that we have not had a successful attack on our territory traces directly to those difficult decisions." A portion of the clip appears below:
The remarks may cause something of an awkward moment today, as they coincide with Barack Obama’s visit to the Bush library. Though Obama and Bush have shared many counterterrorism policies, enhanced interrogation remains a key sticking point between the two administrations, with the president on record opposing Bush administration policies. "I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake," Obama said in 2009.
Rice’s remarks also come as partisans on both sides grapple with Bush’s legacy. A New Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Bush’s approval rating rising to 47 percent, a sharp increase from when he left office in 2009 at 33 percent. Barack Obama’s approval rating, meanwhile, hovers around 47 percent as well.