Monday, February 2, 2009

An Obama Rendition

I suppose Greg Miller's LA Times article that I posted about yesterday answered my question - yes, there will be renditions under Obama. The earlier source for this information was Rob Winder, writing for Al Jazeera. Winder provides a more specific definition of extraordinary rendition than Miller does, writing: "Extraordinary renditions, where "terror" suspects are apprehended and transferred from countries by US intelligence services or their allies, without going through any legal process, could still be carried out." Michael Scheuer (hardly an anti-torture advocate) makes an interesting point about the terror suspects that will be shuffled around:

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent who was head of the organisation's Bin Laden
Unit in the 1990's, told Al Jazeera it was not clear what would now happen
to suspects detained as part of the rendition process after the secret prisons
had been closed and other countries off-limits due to torture claims.
"I don't know where they would be taken ... but they wouldn't be brought here [to
the US]," says Scheuer.
"Most of those detained have been arrested by foreign intelligence agencies so a US court could not be sure they hadn't been roughed up at all and that documents had not been tampered with."

Well, at least they won't be tortured now...right? My concern is that "gaining assurances" could become an empty process used only for CYA purposes - a look-the-other-way type process. After all, we monitor the human rights records of other countries constantly. The difficulty of gaining assurances countries won't torture should not be great. Otherwise, what are we paying all those people at the State Department to do?

I believe it is important for the Obama team to make clear that the policy they want to pursue is a sea-change from the Bush Administration. For instance, Richard Clarke in his article "The Confusion Over Renditions" makes excellent points about the right kind of rendition - namely, that rendition is legal (or can be) - "The Supreme Court has even ruled that renditions occurring without the cooperation of the nation of arrest are legal if the accused is expeditiously brought into the US justice system." The language of Obama's executive order limiting CIA detention to a very brief time frame should also limit him to performing these narrowly-defined, legal renditions. Esp. in conjunction with his executive order demanding conformity to the Convention Against Torture.

This is, and must be, different from Bush-era policy. But Obama must make that clear. His embrace of rendition must not impair his ability to investigate the policies of the Bush years. People are already conflating Dubya and Obama rendition policies (and since rendition comes in many varieties, this isn't hard to do). This sort of misinformation certainly doesn't serve Obama's interests. Declassify the Bush-era documents, question the players - expose the Bush cronies for what they are. And set up a system for your own renditions that guarantees we are following the rule of law.


Valtin said...

Clarke said, ""The Supreme Court has even ruled that renditions occurring without the cooperation of the nation of arrest are legal if the accused is expeditiously brought into the US justice system."

As wrong as I think such practice is, the Ker=Frisbie doctrine to which he refers is still in force. But no one is stating that the U.S. wishes to arrest terrorists and bring them expeditiously into some U.S. court. So it is another rhetorical strawman.

back_to_our_senses said...

Valtin - Obama absolutely cannot render to Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, etc. I would think the easiest to justify renditions would have to be those to the US.

back_to_our_senses said...

Although I do see your point - the language in the executive order is clearly about transferring detainees to third countries. So that option is still open. You would think the priority would be to arrest terrorists and bring them back here - but that isn't where the policy argument is right now.