In a column in today's NYT, Bob Herbert writes about extraordinary rendition - the practice of shipping individuals accused of terrorism to other countries for incarceration. It so happens that these countries often are ones that are known to engage in torture. Herbert writes::
A Massachusetts congressman, Edward Markey, has taken the eminently sensible step of introducing legislation that would ban this utterly reprehensible practice. In a speech on the floor of the House, Mr. Markey, a Democrat, said: "Torture is morally repugnant whether we do it or whether we ask another country to do it for us. It is morally wrong whether it is captured on film or whether it goes on behind closed doors unannounced to the American people."
Unfortunately, the outlook for this legislation is not good. I asked Pete Jeffries, the communications director for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, if the speaker supported Mr. Markey's bill. After checking with the policy experts in his office, Mr. Jeffries called back and said: "The speaker does not support the Markey proposal. He believes that suspected terrorists should be sent back to their home countries."
Surprised, I asked why suspected terrorists should be sent anywhere. Why shouldn't they be held by the United States and prosecuted?
"Because," said Mr. Jeffries, "U.S. taxpayers should not necessarily be on the hook for their judicial and incarceration costs."
This is ridiculous. The biggest problem with the response from Hastert's office is that extraordinary rendition isn't the equivalent of deportation - sending an individual back to their country of origin. Instead, these people are sent to countries that they have no connection to at all - like Syria. That's what happened to a Canadian citizen who was not sent to Canada but was instead sent to Syria, where he was tortured. The intent of extraordinary rendition is not deportation, it's not a money saving exercise. It's moving the prisoner outside the scope of US law so that 'coercive interrogations' can occur with no repercussions. If our government leaders are going to endorse such a practice, they ought to have the courage of their convictions and say so.