Here's a question for you: what is the benefit of being able to transfer suspected terrorists to a foreign country for interrogation?
The Bush administration wants us to believe that they don't and won't condone torture. They've proclaimed their support for humane treatment of prisoners and denounced torture at the same time they redefined torture so narrowly that they could approve of what we all recognize as torture without contradicting themselves. And don't forget how quaint the Geneva Conventions are - we pick and choose when they apply. And we contort ourselves to meet the letter of the law but not the spirit. Why else is Guantanamo where it is but to be sure that we are holding prisoners in a no man's land that isn't subject to laws that apply in the states or in US territories? What laws? Due process and anti-torture statutes.
You see, the Bush administration has bent over backwards to use any means necessary to extract information from suspected terrorists and still be able to say with a straight face that they don't condone torture and that they've followed the law.
Well here's the latest revelation on the administration's deep respect for the law. Since shortly after 9/11, the CIA has had permission under a classified directive from President Bush to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation. The unstated value of this practice called rendition is the willingness of some countries to torture prisoners and the theoretical clean hands it gives this administration, which found a way to extract information through torture while publicly proclaiming that it wasn't in the business of torture.
Screw due process. That's a luxury we can't afford in this time of war on terror. Screw our national commitment to humane treatment, another luxury. Screw our national reputation, it's a luxury to care what the world thinks (we're more powerful than anyone else after all). Screw the law, it's a luxury to follow it. Screw the Geneva Conventions, it's a luxury to honor international agreements. This is a time of war, of military necessity, of fear and loathing. It's us against them and screw them, even if they're innocent. Casualties of war happen, you know.
Yes, I'm pissed. Information about our conduct in this war in regards to the treatment of detainees - suspected, innocent, and terrorists alike - is leaking out drip by drip and I am not proud of the conduct of our nation or the values we represent through our actions.
We've sent suspects to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, and Kuwait - all countries that our state department has identified as states that torture prisoners. It might not be so bad if we knew, knew, that those sent to these countries' prisons were guilty of terrorist acts. But that's simply not the case.
Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was detained at Kennedy Airport two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and transported to Syria, where he said he was subjected to beatings. A year later he was released without being charged with any crime.
Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German who was pulled from a bus on the Serbia-Macedonia border in December 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he said he was beaten and drugged. He was released five months later without being charged with a crime.
Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian who was arrested in Pakistan several weeks after the 2001 attacks. He was moved to Egypt, Afghanistan and finally Guantánamo. During his detention, Mr. Habib said he was beaten, humiliated and subjected to electric shocks. He was released after 40 months without being charged.
Either these men were not guilty or we're letting terrorists go. I'm guessing that it's the former. The government is claiming that information that saved lives has been gained from those "rendered, detained, and interrogated". That's their justification. I'm not buying, and believe me that I had to stop typing a while and make sure I meant that. I don't know if we would have gleaned the same information from these folks with alternative methods of interrogation, but everything I've read says that torture is one of the least effective ways to gain information. And frankly, if as a nation we believe that torture is the best way to save lives then we ought to have the courage of our convictions and do it ourselves in our own facilities. Our unwillingness to do so speaks of cowardice or shame - political cowardice and moral shame. If you're doing what's right, neither applies. And in this case, both do. It ain't right.
Source: Rule Change Let's CIA Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails, by Douglas Jehl and David Johnston, New York Times, 3/6/05
More blog posts and news on extraordinary rendition and this new info on the CIA:
- Kathy at Liberty Street posts here and here.
- 60 Minutes has a story here which includes truly disturbing comments by Michael Scheuer, who was the senior CIAofficial in the counter-terrorism up until just three months ago
- Jeanne at Body and Soul posts on the practice, the intent, and wonders if panic is beginning to set in
In an editorial titled Torture by Proxy, the New York Times says it well:
Let's be clear about this: Any prisoner of the United States is protected by American values. That cannot be changed by sending him to another country and pretending not to notice that he's being tortured.
Go read the rest.