Obama to Continue Rendition of Terrorist Suspects
With the release of the CIA Torture Report Counterterrorism, Detention and Interrogation Activities Report on Monday, hot on its heels comes the statement from the Obama Administration that it will continue the Bush-era practice of extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects in third countries for interrogation and detention. The difference will be, apparently, that they intend to closely monitor proceedings to ensure suspects are not tortured. I am confused.
Ms. Singh [Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush] cited the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian sent in 2002 by the United States to Syria, where he was beaten with electrical cable despite assurances against torture.
The task force has proposed a more vigorous monitoring of the treatment of prisoners sent to other countries, but Ms. Singh said the usual method of such monitoring — visits from American or allied consular officials — had been ineffective. A Canadian consular official visited Mr. Arar several times, but the prisoner was too frightened to tell him about the torture, a Canadian investigation found. [NYT]
A step forward on interrogation techniques has also been announced, with the formation of a new multi-agency unit that will be operating as part of the FBI:
he new unit, to be called the High Value Interrogation Group, will be made up of analysts, linguists and other personnel from the C.I.A. and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies. It will operate under policies set by the National Security Council.
The officials said all interrogations would comply with guidelines contained in the Army Field Manual, which outlaws the use of physical force. The group will study interrogation methods, however, and may add additional noncoercive methods in the future, the officials said. [NYT]
While I welcome a more sophisticated and humane approach to interrogation from the US, and it sounds like it will be a vast improvement over Bush-era interrogation techniques, the announcement that rendition will continue is disappointing and confusing. Surely Obama knows that monitoring rendition in third countries can’t possibly succeed, especially not in a comprehensive way. Even if one person is tortured, that’s one person too many. It is disappointing because Obama is compromising on certain things that I don’t believe he should be compromising on. It’s understandable that, as a politician, he will need to compromise on some things, but allowing torture at the hands of famed and proven torturers should not be one.