This letter to the editor appears in today's Washington Post:
The President's Stance on Torture
Tuesday, October 5, 2004; Page A24
A Sept. 30 front-page article inaccurately reported that the Bush administration supports a provision in the House intelligence reform bill that would permit the deportation of certain foreign nationals to countries where they are likely to be tortured.
The president did not propose and does not support this provision. He has made clear that the United States stands against and will not tolerate torture and that the United States remains committed to complying with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Consistent with that treaty, the United States does not expel, return or extradite individuals to countries where the United States believes it is likely that they will be tortured.
ALBERTO R. GONZALES
Counsel to the President
I don't know how seriously to take this. As I think my posts here have demonstrated in mind numbing detail, we DO expel, return, or extradite individuals to countries where are tortured.
We do get a wink-wink-nudge-nudge "assurance" from Syria or Egpyt that they will not torture suspects. But given 1) those countries' human rights records, 2) the numerous and well supported allegations of torture from suspects we have sent there, 3) the numerous statements from intelligence officials that we deport people to these countries knowing full well how they treat suspects--in fact, we do it because of how they treat suspects, and 4) that we get full reports from, and in some cases participate in, their interrogations, these "assurances" are as flimsy as a wet tissue.
And since Gonzales is not honest about what the administration is doing, I can't really take his word for it that the administration opposes what Hastert is doing.
Still, this letter is good news. It does at least indicate that the President does not feel he can publicly support the legalization of "extraordinary rendition." That is something. And perhaps it will free House Republicans to vote their conscience on Markey's amendment. That is also something.
But there is no way the President & the Senate won't get their way on this in conference if they mean it. If the conference version of the bill contains the language legalizing extraordinary rendition, Gonzales' letter will be worth about as much to me as Syria's promise not to torture should be worth to him.