Despite promises that torture would be history in the new administration with pulling the shutters on Guantanamo Bay detention centre, US
President Barack Obama has left intact a programme that gives the CIA authority to carry out rendition flights, media reports said on Monday.
In his first few days in office, Obama was lauded for rejecting policies of the Bush era, but it has emerged the CIA still has the authority to carry out renditions in which suspects are picked up and often sent to a third country for questioning, reports the Telegraph.
The practice caused outrage at the EU, after it was revealed the CIA had used secret prisons in Romania and Poland and airports such as Prestwick in Scotland to conduct up to 1,200 rendition flights. The European Parliament called renditions “an illegal instrument used by the United States”.
According to a detailed reading of the executive orders signed by Obama on January 22, renditions have not been outlawed, with the new administration deciding it needs to retain some devices in Bush’s anti-terror arsenal amid continued threats to US national security.
In the executive orders Obama merely promised a review of rendition policy, with the intention of ensuring that suspects were not sent to other countries “to face torture”.
“Obviously you need to preserve some tools — you still have to go after the bad guys,” an administration official told the Los Angeles Times.
“The legal advisers working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”
Khaled Masri, a German citizen, was arrested in Macedonia in 2003 and taken to Afghanistan for five months before the CIA realised it had made a mistake. The Italians sought to prosecute CIA operatives who had arrested Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, and flew him to Egypt where he claimed he was tortured.
Render the legal advisers who consider it acceptable.
Update: There is a claim that rendition to countries that torture will actually be stopped, after all. The CIA will still play body snatcher, but New York attorney Scott Horton writing below for Harper’s says torture and long detentions are not involved in such ordinary renditions. ( I wonder if, when they snatch people, the are ever tempted to dress up in alien costumes?) Nevermind.
The Los Angeles Times just got punked. Its description of the European Parliament’s report is not accurate. (Point of disclosure: I served as an expert witness in hearings leading to the report.) But that’s the least of its problems. It misses the difference between the renditions program, which has been around since the Bush 41 Administration at least (and arguably in some form even in the Reagan Administration) and the extraordinary renditions program which was introduced by Bush 43 and clearly shut down under an executive order issued by President Obama in his first week.
… The extraordinary renditions program involved the operation of long-term detention facilities either by the CIA or by a cooperating host government together with the CIA, in which prisoners were held outside of the criminal justice system and otherwise unaccountable under law for extended periods of time. A central feature of this program was rendition to torture, namely that the prisoner was turned over to cooperating foreign governments with the full understanding that those governments would apply techniques that even the Bush Administration considers to be torture. This practice is a felony under current U.S. law, but was made a centerpiece of Bush counterterrorism policy.
The earlier renditions program regularly involved snatching and removing targets for purposes of bringing them to justice by delivering them to a criminal justice system. It did not involve the operation of long-term detention facilities and it did not involve torture. There are legal and policy issues with the renditions program, but they are not in the same league as those surrounding extraordinary rendition. Moreover, Obama committed to shut down the extraordinary renditions program, and continuously made clear that this did not apply to the renditions program. … – harpers
Who is policing the police? You look at something like this and you have to wonder: what are the checks and balances that keep a rogue person or group from torturing prisoners for fun or profit?