Rendition

August 5, 2007 at 7:26 pm (books, movies, politics)

I don’t know if that happens to anyone else, but somewhat frequently, I will hear of something (a term, news article, book, etc) that I have never heard of before, but then with very quick succession, that thing will pop up again and again on my radar within the next day or so. This happened last night with the term “Rendition”. David Ignatius of the Washington post defines the term quite well in his article on the topic:

Rendition is the CIA’s antiseptic term for its practice of sending captured terrorist suspects to other countries for interrogation. Because some of those countries torture prisoners — and because some of the suspected terrorists “rendered” by the CIA say they were in fact tortured — the debate has tended to lump rendition and torture together. The implication is that the CIA is sending people to Egypt, Jordan or other Middle Eastern countries because they can be tortured there and coerced into providing information they wouldn’t give up otherwise.

This word came up in the context of two movies last night, a preview for the movie “Rendition” and it was also mentioned several times in “The Bourne Ultimatum”. Then later I happened to read about it in the book I’m still trudging through, “Blackwater; The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army” by Jeremy Scahill.

Now to me, the idea of practicing rendition sounds like something that Cheney or Rove would have had a wet-dream about and then presented to their puppet for implementation. I was wrong. Scahill writes:

The rendition program was not born under the Bush administration but rather during the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s. The CIA, with the approval of the Clinton White House and a presidential directive, began sending terror suspects to Egypt, where far removed from U.S. law and due process, they could be interrogated by mukhabarat agents. In 1998 , the U.S. congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture…After 9/11, this legislation was sidestepped under the Bush administration’s “New Paradigm,” which stripped alleged terror suspects of basic rights.”

It is of course no secret that the Bush administration, Cheney in particular, is not shy about working through “the dark side” “quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies” (quotes from Cheney). Part of the reason that anyone stands behind the war still (though there aren’t many left) is that, as Americans, we have enjoyed democracy, equality (well, kinda) and importantly due process of the law, and we want to spread those ideals to other countries. We look with disgust upon other countries who routinely abuse human rights and who treat some groups of citizens with less respect and legal rights than others.

There is a reason why a relatively well-informed citizen like me had never heard of rendition before. Our government does not want us to know about this. We are sending residents and citizens of the U.S. abroad with the clear intent of holding them without due process and torturing them into divulging information, a technique which is vial and ultimately very dangerous in the long run:

Scientific research on the efficacy of torture and rough interrogation is limited, because of the moral and legal impediments to experimentation. Tom Parker, a former officer for M.I.5, the British intelligence agency, who teaches at Yale, argued that, whether or not forceful interrogations yield accurate information from terrorist suspects, a larger problem is that many detainees “have nothing to tell.” …“The U.S. is doing what the British did in the nineteen-seventies, detaining people and violating their civil liberties,” he said. “It did nothing but exacerbate the situation. Most of those interned went back to terrorism. You’ll end up radicalizing the entire population.”

This quote is from a very in depth and complete article on the subject of rendition by Jane Mayer.

Its an unpleasant task, but we as U.S. citizens need to find ways to be aware of what our leaders are doing. They are certainly doing everything in their power to keep us in the dark, which is yet another characteristic of governments that we view as being totalitarian and corrupt.

p.s. I realized that I should say, just so everyone doesn’t think I’m a total dunce, that I did in fact know about the practice of extraditing and interrogating suspected terrorists.  I just didn’t know that it was called Rendition.

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