Sunday, March 06, 2005

Same Extraordinary Rendition. New Low Prices! 

Stick this in your human rights report: the NYT has unearthed new details on the Bush administration's practice of "extraordinary rendition," which turns out to have the President's fingerprints all over it. Our question: if the CIA has had blanket authority, with no case-by-case oversight, to "render" prisoners to foreign governments for purposes of torture, and they've elected to use that authority 150 times in just over three years -- or, on average, almost once a week -- what exactly makes it "extraordinary"?
The unusually expansive authority for the C.I.A. to operate independently was provided by the White House under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said.

The process, known as rendition, has been central in the government's efforts to disrupt terrorism, but has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups on grounds that the practice has violated the Bush administration's public pledge to provide safeguards against torture.

In providing a detailed description of the program, a senior United States official said that it had been aimed only at those suspected of knowing about terrorist operations, and emphasized that the C.I.A. had gone to great lengths to ensure that they were detained under humane conditions and not tortured.

The official would not discuss any legal directive under which the agency operated, but said that the "C.I.A. has existing authorities to lawfully conduct these operations."

The official declined to be named but agreed to discuss the program to rebut the assertions that the United States used the program to secretly send people to other countries for the purpose of torture. The transfers were portrayed as an alternative to what American officials have said is the costly, manpower-intensive process of housing them in the United States or in American-run facilities in other countries.

In recent weeks, several former detainees have described being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and brutal treatment during months spent in detention under the program in Egypt and other countries. The official would not discuss specific cases, but did not dispute that there had been instances in which prisoners were mistreated. The official said none had died . . . .

In public, the Bush administration has refused to confirm that the rendition program exists, saying only in response to questions about it that the United States did not hand over people to face torture. The official refused to say how many prisoners had been transferred as part of the program. But former government officials say that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A. has flown 100 to 150 suspected terrorists from one foreign country to another, including to
Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan . . . .

"We get assurances, we check on those assurances, and we double-check on these assurances to make sure that people are being handled properly in respect to human rights," the official said. The official said that compliance had been "very high" but added, "Nothing is 100 percent unless we're sitting there staring at them 24 hours a day."
Got that? We put our "detainees," most of whom have not been charged with a crime and never will be, on a special black Gulfstream jet and hand-deliver them to countries that routinely engage in torture -- not because we want them to be tortured, no, no, far from it; we always "get assurances" that the countries in question will not do, to these particular victims, what they routinely do to all the rest, because that would be a violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the U.S. in 1994. No, we handle it this way because of the enormous savings in money and manpower. (Sure, the jet fuel is expensive, but the Syrians have very generously offered to pick up the tab for three plates of gruel per prisoner per day . . . . )

The Bushies are at this point so breathtakingly arrogant that they don't even bother with plausible deniability. Implausible deniability seems to do the trick just fine.

(via our stouthearted colleagues at Cursor): In case you still had any doubts about those "assurances" we've been getting . . . .

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