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Report Shows Rice Approved CIA Torture

(AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel)
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been out of the spotlight, earning up to $150,000 for speaking engagements and lunching with celebrities like American Idol judge Randy Jackson. But the political spotlight is turning toward her again, and it could be a little harsh.

A 232-page report released this week by the Senate Armed Services Committee states that Rice, as well as several other Bush administration officials, reviewed and subsequently approved the use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques.

CBS News's David Martin reported that, while serving as Bush's National Security Adviser, Rice gave verbal approval to CIA Director George Tenet to continue using harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding and stress positions, on detainees.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, Rice said she didn't recall the details of conversations at the White House regarding CIA interrogation techniques.

The Washington Post noted that in 2005 Rice said, "The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world."

The controversy rests on the definition of torture. Memos released this week show that government lawyers struggled with the definition, but at this point most people in Washington and around the world would categorize waterboarding — simulated drowning — as a classical form of torture.

President Obama has left the door open to the possible prosecution of those who approved the harsh interrogation methods. However, many government officials would rather not drag the country through months of hearings exposing what are now regarded as illegal interrogation methods. Senators John McCain, R-AZ, Joe Lieberman, I-CT, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, would rather see the door closed on the past.

"Pursuing such prosecutions would, we believe, have serious negative effects on the candor with which officials in any administration provide their best advice, and would take our country in a backward-looking direction at a time when our detainee-related challenges demand that we look forward," the senators said in a letter to President Obama.

Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, would like to see a non-partisan torture commission to investigate what happened, but he'll have to convince several parties that looking back is best for America.

According to CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen, "Sen. Leahy won't just need to convince the White House and Justice Department to go along with the idea of a Torture Commission, he'll need Republicans to make the Commission truly bipartisan. And for that he might need an initial pledge from the executive branch not to prosecute former Bush officials who authorized and drafted the memos."

President Obama would like to put the contentious torture issue behind him, given all the other balls he is juggling, but this one won't easily go away.