Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool

According to the LA Times, President Obama’s administration has allowed the CIA to still continue to use rendition – secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that are “friendly” with the US but lax on human rights.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as “an illegal instrument used by the United States.” Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a Boeing Co. subsidiary accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

The decision underscores the fact that the battle with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is far from over and that even if the United States is shutting down the prisons, it is not done taking prisoners.

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools – you still have to go after the bad guys,” said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the legal reasoning. “The legal advisors 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.”

Here is an analysis of the article in question.

I think a lot of the stories we’ve seen like this recently are lower-level officials held over from Bush trying to move the debate through leaks.

I expect that, sooner or later, Obama will disappoint. It’s hard to be a good guy and be president. Still, I’m glad that it’s not this badly or this soon.

tl;dr version: LA Times (among others) is confusing “rendition” with “extraordinary rendition.” The former still has some legal hurdles, but it’s not in the same zip code as the latter. Rendition in the form that is being retained has been around since the Reagan admin.

According to that article, extraordinary rendition also covers cases where we grab people from other countries and bring them to the US for trial without the consent/cooperation of the gov’t in those countries.

I’m having a hard time feeling like somehow that’s morally worse than the practice of blowing up high value targets via Predator drones, which doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

Anyhow, I’m interested in seeing what our policy ends up being on all this - there are clearly some grey areas.

I think the problem is that extraordinary rendition dovetails into a lot of other ugly things. A person disappears off the grid, they’re taken to a secret detention facility, possibly tortured, and possibly imprisoned indefinitely without access to legal counsel, or any contact with the outside world.

Plus, military tribunals appear to be a lot more common than trials. And in these tribunals, classified evidence is factored into the verdict. The defense can’t challenge classified evidence, because they’re not allowed to see it.

One of the cornerstones of the rule of law is a transparent legal process; the defendant knows who the witnesses and accusers are, knows what they said about him, and is able to defend himself against the particulars – or have the evidence thrown out altogether. Instead, one has to rely on the acumen and objectivity of the tribunal judges.