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February 07, 2005

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Comments

Not many new facts, but all put together -

I have a friend who's a reservist, who's been in Iraq for 18 months. She came back to the news that Gonzales had been confirmed as Attorney General, and asked "what am I coming home to? What country do I live in?"

One that kidnaps innocent people and takes them away to be tortured and imprisoned, sometimes for years.

The UK isn't innocent in this respect. How we treated IRA suspects during the 1970s was our disgrace: as is how we're treating the dozen or so "terrorist suspects" in Belmarsh prison.

But on my oath, I don't think we've participated in anything as disgraceful as this since we were a world-dominating empire...

...because of course back then, the British could get away with it. As the US can now.

"The point, he said, was that the Geneva Conventions’“simple binary classification of civilian or soldier isn’t accurate.”" ...Yoo

Glad to see that my ignorant interpretation was correct, that anyone not protected is a civilian, except I guess, now they aren't.

"He went on to suggest that President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was “proof that the debate is over.” He said, “The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.”"

I think any reformulation of Yoo's statement here would probably violate posting rules. Hey, what does he know?

“The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.”"

Charles Bird didn't seem to think so: he said he'd been chumped.

I wonder how many other Republicans will feel that way too?

Wow is this helping my rotten mood.

An interesting question is what happens to the prisoners, err, detainees in Thailand ten years down the line? Under a President Hilary or Edwards or Obama? Since, under apparent logic, they have no rights, I presume when their usefulness is ended they will all have heart attacks or something. Without ever being charged with a crime. Whatever.

The future judgement of history provides me no comfort.

Bob,

"Under a President Hilary or Edwards or Obama?"

Is there a reason why you mentioned those names in particular (as opposed to a President Jeb, Frist or Santorum)? I would like to think that the first group might actually put an end to this revolting practice, but have no such hopes about the second.

"On October 21, 2001, her husband, Hadj Boudella, a Muslim of Algerian descent, and five other Algerians living in Bosnia were arrested"

Enemy combatant? Boudelia? Does Article 4 or Article 5 have precedence under these conditions? I am all confused.

"Is there a reason why you mentioned those names in particular"

Yes, I worried during the campaign that Kerry had been put into a situation where if elected he continues these practices, quietly makes KSM disappear, or gives KSM his freedom because KSM is untriable except under new Bush/Gonzalez rules.

No, President Hilary would not set KSM free.

Dantheman: I would like to think that the first group might actually put an end to this revolting practice, but have no such hopes about the second.

The problem is that the longer these prisoners are held in illegal custody, the worse they have to testify against those who imprisoned them there. Should President Obama order their release, at some point when Bush & Co were still mostly alive and could be tried for their crimes, a flock of indictments would come home to roost.

Assuming that any of them were still alive.

If, however, their illegal imprisonment continues to the end of their lives, they can never testify, and it's likely that those responsible for their illegal imprisonment and torture will never be prosecuted. If Jeb Bush were to become President in 2008, would he order the release of prisoners whose evidence could see his brother on trial for his crimes?

Not likely.

"Not many new facts, but all put together -"

Not many new facts, to us. Probably lots of new facts to your average reader of the New Yorker.

Thanks.

Okay, here's what's new to me as far as factual information:

1) A conversation with Michael Scheuer about the early years of the rendition program under President Bill Clinton.

In 1995, Scheuer said, American agents proposed the rendition program to Egypt, making clear that it had the resources to track, capture, and transport terrorist suspects globally—including access to a small fleet of aircraft. Egypt embraced the idea. “What was clever was that some of the senior people in Al Qaeda were Egyptian,” Scheuer said. “It served American purposes to get these people arrested, and Egyptian purposes to get these people back, where they could be interrogated.” Technically, U.S. law requires the C.I.A. to seek “assurances” from foreign governments that rendered suspects won’t be tortured. Scheuer told me that this was done, but he was “not sure” if any documents confirming the arrangement were signed....

Scheuer claimed that “there was a legal process” undergirding these early renditions. Every suspect who was apprehended, he said, had been convicted in absentia. Before a suspect was captured, a dossier was prepared containing the equivalent of a rap sheet. The C.I.A.’s legal counsel signed off on every proposed operation. Scheuer said that this system prevented innocent people from being subjected to rendition. “Langley would never let us proceed unless there was substance,” he said. Moreover, Scheuer emphasized, renditions were pursued out of expedience—“not out of thinking it was the best policy.”

Since September 11th, as the number of renditions has grown, and hundreds of terrorist suspects have been deposited indefinitely in places like Guantánamo Bay, the shortcomings of this approach have become manifest. “Are we going to hold these people forever?” Scheuer asked. “The policymakers hadn’t thought what to do with them, and what would happen when it was found out that we were turning them over to governments that the human-rights world reviled.” Once a detainee’s rights have been violated, he says, “you absolutely can’t” reinstate him into the court system. “You can’t kill him, either,” he added. “All we’ve done is create a nightmare.”

--Scheuer's "there was a legal process" argument is not convincing. Egyptian military tribunals in absentia? In the case that I know about, 100-odd people were tried. Only about half of them were there. Many--probably most-
-of the suspects' confessions were coerced under torture. Some of them did have defense lawyers, but I'm not sure what the defense lawyers were allowed to do--and obviously the people who weren't there didn't present a defense. I would be shocked if the decision maker were independent.

--That said, based on the cases I know about, there was a dramatic drop in the standard of proof after 9/11. All of the suspects I know about rendered before 9/11 seem very likely to be guilty, and pretty high up in Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad. The evidence against them comes partly from coerced confessions & Egyptian trials in absentia, but also from CIA surveillance, intercepted phone calls, computer disks full of target information, that sort of thing. After 9/11, there are many more doubts about some suspects' guilt, and many of the people who do seem to have been in Al Qaeda also seem to be pretty low in the food chain.

2. Conversations with a former FBI agent Dan Coleman, who is seriously pissed:

From the beginning of the rendition program, Coleman said, there was no doubt that Egypt engaged in torture. He recalled the case of a suspect in the first World Trade Center bombing who fled to Egypt. The U.S. requested his return, and the Egyptians handed him over—wrapped head to toe in duct tape, like a mummy. (In another incident, an Egyptian with links to Al Qaeda who had coöperated with the U.S. government in a terrorism trial was picked up in Cairo and imprisoned by Egyptian authorities until U.S. diplomats secured his release. For days, he had been chained to a toilet, where guards had urinated on him.)

3. More excerpts than I had read before from William Taft IV's memo protesting the changes in the laws about interrogation:

. In a forty-page memo to Yoo, dated January 11, 2002 (which has not been publicly released), William Taft IV, the State Department legal adviser, argued that Yoo’s analysis was “seriously flawed.” Taft told Yoo that his contention that the President could disregard the Geneva Conventions was “untenable,” “incorrect,” and “confused.” Taft disputed Yoo’s argument that Afghanistan, as a “failed state,” was not covered by the Conventions. “The official United States position before, during, and after the emergence of the Taliban was that Afghanistan constituted a state,” he wrote. Taft also warned Yoo that if the U.S. took the war on terrorism outside the Geneva Conventions, not only could U.S. soldiers be denied the protections of the Conventions—and therefore be prosecuted for crimes, including murder—but President Bush could be accused of a “grave breach” by other countries, and be prosecuted for war crimes. Taft sent a copy of his memo to Gonzales, hoping that his dissent would reach the President.

4. A specific case of rendition I had not known about, of Al Qaeda leader Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi:

the C.I.A. reportedly rendered Libi to Egypt. He was seen boarding a plane in Afghanistan, restrained by handcuffs and ankle cuffs, his mouth covered by duct tape. Cloonan, who retired from the F.B.I. in 2002, said, “At least we got information in ways that wouldn’t shock the conscience of the court. And no one will have to seek revenge for what I did.” He added, “We need to show the world that we can lead, and not just by military might.”

After Libi was taken to Egypt, the F.B.I. lost track of him. Yet he evidently played a crucial background role in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s momentous address to the United Nations Security Council in February, 2003, which argued the case for a preëmptive war against Iraq. In his speech, Powell did not refer to Libi by name, but he announced to the world that “a senior terrorist operative” who “was responsible for one of Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan” had told U.S. authorities that Saddam Hussein had offered to train two Al Qaeda operatives in the use of “chemical or biological weapons.”

Last summer, Newsweek reported that Libi, who was eventually transferred from Egypt to Guantánamo Bay, was the source of the incendiary charge cited by Powell, and that he had recanted....

Dan Coleman was disgusted when he heard about Libi’s false confession. “It was ridiculous for interrogators to think Libi would have known anything about Iraq,” he said. “I could have told them that. He ran a training camp. He wouldn’t have had anything to do with Iraq. Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links, but there weren’t any. The reason they got bad information is that they beat it out of him.

5. Confirmation that the United States has rendered suspects to Uzbekistan, from former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray:

[Murray] said he knew of “at least three” instances where the U.S. had rendered suspected militants from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. Although Murray does not know the fate of the three men, he said, “They almost certainly would have been tortured.”

Before this I'd read unsourced reports that we took suspects to Uzbekistan, and that one of the chartered Gulfstream V jets we use for renditions had stopped there, but that doesn't tell you whether they're picking up suspects or delivering them. So this is the most solid information to date.

6. Additional corroboration of Mamdouh Habib's allegations of torture in Egypt.

7. This quotation from former OLC attorney John Yoo:

Yoo also argued that the Constitution granted the President plenary powers to override the U.N. Convention Against Torture when he is acting in the nation’s defense—a position that has drawn dissent from many scholars. As Yoo saw it, Congress doesn’t have the power to “tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” He continued, “It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.” If the President were to abuse his powers as Commander-in-Chief, Yoo said, the constitutional remedy was impeachment. He went on to suggest that President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was “proof that the debate is over.” He said, “The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.”

I don't think Yoo is correct to say that the public has had its referendum on this issue, and by voting for Bush they voted to endorse the OLC torture memos and his interrogation policies.

I do fear he is correct that "the issue is dying out", and that the Bush administration will interpret their re-election and Gonzales' relatively easy confirmation as an endorsement of their policies on interrogation and torture.

(ctd...)

"a flock of indictments would come home to roost."

I have been worried about a whole bunch of things. Umm, honestly trying to be careful here, but am scared of a whole complex of intimidation,implication, corruption, and accessorization (? I am no lawyer, and I don't mean scarves and handbags).

Besides so many soldiers and agents and foreign governments, I worried about a case coming to SCOTUS where a decision could immediately throw a half dozen top officials into jail. A justice need not be partisan before he hesitates on his ruling. And thus develops a whole new body of irrevocable law.

I think it is clear from the fact that not a single Republican member of Congress has voted to subpoena documents related to the administration's torture policies, and not a single Republican member of the Senate voted against Alberto Gonzales, that right now zero Republicans in Congress are willing to directly challenge the President over this. There will not be a real Congressional investigation short of something worse than Abu Ghraib emerging, and any Democrats who start fantasizing about "Watergate: the sequel" when reading Yoo's comments about impeachment need to realize that they might as well wish for a pony.

It is also clear that any amendment attached to a bill is going to be stripped out in committee--this has already happened twice.

A statute might be a different matter. Senator Durbin's anti-torture amendment has passed the Senate overwhelmingly, twice. Congressman Markey's bill about rendition has never been given a real hearing in the House, but if introduced in the Senate I think it could also get bipartisan support. Add it to Durbin's amendment in a single anti-torture bill, and...I doubt it would pass 97-2 again with the administration's opposition known and the initial outrage over Abu Ghraib fading further into memory. But I think, or at least hope, that even the Democrats who voted for Gonzales would support such a bill, and between Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins, John Warner, Arlen Specter, etc., we could muster enough votes for it to pass the Senate. If there were enough press coverage I think it could pass relatively comfortably.

The House is another matter. Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay are pretty shameless. But it's not impossible that they could be pressured into allowing a vote if the Senate effort gained enough publicity. And it's not impossible that the administration could feel that they could not take the risk of vetoing such a bill.

(I'm thinking of how McCain Feingold passed.)

It's a pretty faint hope, but I don't think it's non-existent, and I don't have any better ideas. The first step would be finding a Democratic and Republican co-sponsor in both the House and the Senate--the Senate being more important right now, obviously.

As Yoo saw it, Congress doesn’t have the power to “tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” He continued, “It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.”

That is one seriously messed up understanding of the "core" of the CiC.

Hey Sebastian --

What about putting an update in the post that directs readers to Katherine's very fine contributions to the debate (they're all accessible via sidebar, but it's worth a link nonetheless).

"As Yoo saw it, Congress doesn’t have the power to “tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” He continued, “It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.” If the President were to abuse his powers as Commander-in-Chief, Yoo said, the constitutional remedy was impeachment."

The rule of men, not law. The claim that the only real restraint on the President is impeachment, used I think by Nixon during the impoundment crisis, but it has often been a bluff. Maybe it is, has been , and always will be so, that from the entrenched nobility to the peasants in revolt, that as Mao said "he who has the guns makes the laws", but I think the pretense that principle sometimes trumps power has been a useful one.

Katherine, I think even Republican Congressman have been hesitant to act in fear that what they do will simply be ignored, and result in a Constitutional Crisis in time of war. I have a high opinion of Lindsey Graham.

As Yoo saw it, Congress doesn’t have the power to “tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” He continued, “It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.”

Can I now observe that the leadership of the Republican Party has real fascist tendencies.

"Can I now observe that the leadership of the Republican Party has real fascist tendencies."

No

Why do you sy "No" to the comment about Republican leaders having real fascist tendencies, Bob? I'm not being snarky. There is certainly a lot of 1984 in the way the Rove machine works.

I agree with Bob. Making parallels to governments that existed over 50 years ago may be emotionally satisfying, but it is not intellectually so.

It's not 'emotionally satisfying.'

There's nothing 'emotionally satisfying' about seeing bellicose kleptocrats methodically dismantling a century's worth of governmental and social reforms while a docilated, stupified population cheers them on.

Making parallels to governments that existed over 50 years ago may be emotionally satisfying, but it is not intellectually so.

I can't compare the Bush admin to future goverments since I have no idea as to what they will be like, I could compare them to current goverments, but I can't think of any that would be a good fit.

I know that words get thrown around too easily sometimes. There were at least two qualifiers in the statement, however. Here are the commonalities I see: use of fear of an outside enemy to undermine the established internal political structure in order to channel more power to the leader's inner circle, the promotion of antipathy to an internal "enemy", also used to increase the power of the inner circle, abuse of language to limit and control debate, especially the use of opposites (Clean Air Act allows more pollution etc), internment or detention of people based on ethnicity or religion without trial, demonization of political rivals or dissenters, pursuit of the goal of a one-party state (at national level), ...that's it for now. No I'm not saying all Republicans are fascists. I'm not even saying Karl Rove is one. I am saying that Bush's inner circle includes people like karl Rove who have patterns of behavior that certainly put me in mind of fascists.
Fascism isn't just a government of fifty years ago. It is a pattern of political methods used toward the goal of maximizing power in the hands of the few. It's a pattern that works because it appeals to the worst in human character--fear, the need to scapegoat, the desire to invest faith in a strong leader, the desire for glory, and the need for a simple solution that puts the blame on someone else. Many countries have had fascist tendencies without falling completely in to it. And this administration isn't our first flirtation with it,either.
But I didn't mean to start a fight. I'm pretty cynical about governments, a side effect perhaps of studying history.

Making parallels to governments that existed over 50 years ago may be emotionally satisfying, but it is not intellectually so

I couldn't disagree more. There are lessons to be learned from past governments back to the Romans and beyond.

He went on to suggest that President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was “proof that the debate is over.” He said, “The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum."

Uh, this assumes that they first admit to the torture policy, so that there can then be a referrendum on that policy.

Instead, the election is proof that the "few bad apples" lie worked (at least I hope so, and that people would vote differently if there as a real referrendum on the torture issue).

He went on to suggest that President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was “proof that the debate is over.” He said, “The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum."

Does this mean that you can label Republican voters as favoring the torture policy?

Bob,

"Yes, I worried during the campaign that Kerry had been put into a situation where if elected he continues these practices, quietly makes KSM disappear, or gives KSM his freedom because KSM is untriable except under new Bush/Gonzalez rules.

No, President Hilary would not set KSM free."

And you think a Republican President would do that? If not, why are all your examples Democrats?

Jes,

"The problem is that the longer these prisoners are held in illegal custody, the worse they have to testify against those who imprisoned them there. Should President Obama order their release, at some point when Bush & Co were still mostly alive and could be tried for their crimes, a flock of indictments would come home to roost."

True enough. However, I think it far more likely that a President of the opposing party would feel able to take that step.

What you two are suggesting may be as depressing as anything else on this thread. You seem to be saying that, in spite of knowing such a policy is wrong, no one may undo it. For all of our sakes, I hope you are wrong.

I couldn't disagree more. There are lessons to be learned from past governments back to the Romans and beyond.

My point is that a throwaway line about fascism is not a lesson plan. Look, I appreciate where DQ is coming from, but it doesn't add to the discussion. If we want to talk about fascism and its relation to the current administration, we should make sure we agree on what we are talking about. But a one liner doesn't do that, IMO and it takes us further away from Katherine's admirable example.

There is lots and lots of daylight between turning KSM loose and starting a series of war crimes prosecutions against the previous administration(s), and following the Bush/Yoo/Rumsfeld policies.

My "New Yorker" arrives tomorrow.

But I just wanna say that Sebastian giving Katherine an open thread on this subject is what places Obsidian Wings a cut above.

Moe lives. Look what he has become.

"And you think a Republican President would do that? If not, why are all your examples Democrats?"

Because I didn't even consider what a Republican President would do an interesting question.

"What you two are suggesting may be as depressing as anything else on this thread. You seem to be saying that, in spite of knowing such a policy is wrong, no one may undo it. For all of our sakes, I hope you are wrong."

Yes, that is what I am saying. I hope I am wrong. Besides crass political considerations, I do think a precedent has been set, a line has been crossed, and no President will find it easy to treat a suspected terrorist with due process, ppf, in fear of releasing the guy who blows up the Chrysler Building. We have new means to defend ourselves. I do not see how detainees presently incarcerated are released without revealing sources & methods, and without incriminating a whole slew of folks in war crimes.

We have dishonored ourselves and the world, the reputation of mankind, in the newly created gap between the way Goering and Speyer were treated and the way we have treated "suspected terrorists". Nuremberg said:"We are better than that." Bush said:"Not always."

We need to be slapped down hard, and I expect it to happen. I hear the dollar will get dumped this year, as a beginning. Bush is in a big hurry to pass SS, cause you may see a 7000 DOW by June.

Oh, and watch Columbia and Venezuela.

Apologies if it is off topic, and I am no expert, so very large grains of salt. But Russia is moving to a basket of currencies, China is talking about it, and Iran has declared intent to switch to the euro. Oil prices need to be kept high to cover the losses our allies take in continuing to sell oil in dollars. If we can get rid of Chavez, that is one oil exporter we can keep in dollars. As the exporting economies switch, there will be a transition cost, so there will be a short spike as the Japanese and Chinese economies take damage and look risky. Then as the traders gain clarity, the run will begin. The asset premium we gain from holding the reserve currency is over 30%. As housing and stock values deflate, our economy as an importer and consumer will become less valuable, and so a spiral. If not this year, then soon.

I guess there are a lot of people here like Yomtov to tell me I am full of it. Go at it.

Bob
I was just curious when you wrote

An interesting question is what happens to the prisoners, err, detainees in Thailand ten years down the line?

Is there something going on in Thailand, something that you think will be going on in Thailand or just pulling a country's name out of the hat?

I know that Thailand is supposed to have CIA facilities, and that Thaksin has just been re-elected. Also, there is this. Thailand also assisted in Vietnam (here's a comment that struck me rather ironically)

Liaison officers of the US Air Force participating in other Thai operations found that planned air strikes were more readily accepted by Thai ground commanders than close tactical air support. The Thai Army division headquarters requested one planned strike every day. The request was made so automatically and as a matter of routine that it seemed to US troops in the tactical air control party that the Thais were accepting the planned strikes out of typical Thai politeness.

I also toss this out, the English script part one and part two of the English script from Kalla Fakta, a Swedish TV program about renditions in Sweden.

"on in Thailand or just pulling a country's name out of the hat?"

"Reports have suggested that C.I.A. prisons are being operated in Thailand, Qatar, and Afghanistan, among other countries" ...above New Yorker article

"But I just wanna say that Sebastian giving Katherine an open thread on this subject is what places Obsidian Wings a cut above."

Thanks, but I deserve slightly less than zero credit for that. We owe a debt to Katherine for following these stories over the past year. Her reporting on it probably brought about half of you here anyway.

An important article! Putting all of the pieces together makes it into a pattern that more people can understand. It's been bits and pieces and rumors. Almost nobody in the government was willing to talk about the practice (interesting that Richard Clark refused to comment), and the term "extraordinary rendition" didn't ring enough bells with the public.

The details about the plane are still confusing to me. I've known for a while that some people loosely connected to blogs had been tracking some flight logs of planes, but I've never quite known how they can really tie the planes to the prisoners. I noticed that the article didn't really insist on the plane logs as evidence. Anyone know more about this?

Excellent post. And excellent work from Katherine. Thank you.

Thanks, but I deserve slightly less than zero credit for that.

w00t! I have been giving you all the credit you deserve!

Sebastian: We owe a debt to Katherine for following these stories over the past year.

We sure do. Shame what Katherine wrote didn't reach a wider audience - though judging by the reaction of Bush-supporters on ObWing, it wouldn't have made a difference: they knew Bush endorsed torture, and they voted for him anyway.

though judging by the reaction of Bush-supporters on ObWing, it wouldn't have made a difference: they knew Bush endorsed torture, and they voted for him anyway.

He invaded a sovereign state that was not a threat to the US using lies as an excuse to do so, but they voted for him anyway.

So what's a little torture amonst friends?

Don, (poster above), I am sorry are you refering to Bush and Iraq or Clinton and Kosovo?

And since this comes up uner "rendition" I hope you are aware that Clinton, Wesley Clarke and Janet Reno had no trouble "rendering" many terrorists and alleged toerrorists in Albania to Egypt, Saudi adn Syria.

jim: And since this comes up uner "rendition" I hope you are aware that Clinton, Wesley Clarke and Janet Reno had no trouble "rendering" many terrorists and alleged toerrorists in Albania to Egypt, Saudi adn Syria.

I think that DonQ read the full post. Suggest you do the same.

Jesur,

I can tell he didn't read the post from his comment, and I wonder if you did. Do you know anythig about the process and how rendition to overseas torture centers was a regular Clinton administration policy.

I can tell you from very direct personal knowledge than SCORES of suspects were rendered to Egypt by the DoD and CIA with no review.

There were literally hundreds and hundres of hard core and high ranking AQ operatives working with the KLA Kosovo and earlier in Bosnia. We had a regular undergound rairoad to teh middle east security services. do some checking on Ahmed Ibrahim Nagar, who was a very senior Al Queada officer

I also had to laugh that his snide comment had an exact analogy with Clinton and Kosovo.

jim: Do you know anythig about the process and how rendition to overseas torture centers was a regular Clinton administration policy.

See the full post. Katherine outlines the policy as applied under Clinton, and the policy as applied under Bush. I see no reason to repeat it here: you can read it for yourself by scrolling back up to the top.

Can we please not do this. Extraordinary rendition itself started under Clinton. There were more attempts to control it then, but then, 9/11 hadn't happened yet, either. I don't think Kerry would have continued it, but that's based entirely on my own estimation of John Kerry, which Republican voters would not share. Kerry did not raise the issue. So extraordinary rendition itself was not a unique enough indictment of Bush to. change most people's vote, most likely. Extraordinary rendition combined with the legal arguments in the O.L.C. memos, and the legal arguments made in Padilla and Hamdi and about Guantanamo, and the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and the the government documents about Guantanamo, and the stories about contractors, and the reports that Rumsfeld authorized holding ghost prisoners, and the allegations from Guantanamo detainees, and the House G.O.P. attempt to legalize extraordinary rendition in the intelligence bill, all combined to create a pretty convincing picture for me by November. But so much of our political opinion depends on credibility determinations, of witnesses and news sources and politicians, that it is entirely to be expected that a Republican would evaluate the evidence differently and believe the "few bad apples" excuse more readily and for much longer than a Democrat. (I wish I had understood this more fully before the election, as I should have been a lot nicer to Moe.) A lot of the evidence has emerged since the election--especially the evidence about practices in locations other than Abu Ghraib. It has also been only since the election that we got, from the second rejection of the Durbin amendment, Marty Lederman's skillful analysis of the OLC memos, and the careful questioning of Alberto Gonzales by some of the democratic Senators (plus Lindsey Graham), a clearer picture of what the White House had legally authorized. And, for whatever reason, the press has been following the story more clearly since the election--almost all of the reporting on the Gulfstream V jets being used to transport prisoners, for example. (It's gotten really difficult keeping up--every time I think I'm nearing the end of a draft of the factual section of the paper something new emerges.)

It's not that I understand why people voted for Bush. Quite honestly I don't understand it and really never have--but since there aren't any neutral observeers of U.S. politics, there's no one to tell us whether this shows I'm right or that I'm unbelievably stubborn. In any case, it's too late. The election was four months ago, and I cannot see what purpose it serves to guilt trip people about a vote they could not change even if they wanted to. If it causes them to change their vote in the midterms, great, but there are so few competitive Congressional races these days that I doubt more than a handful of us will vote in any of them.

It's emotionally satisfying to tell ourselves that Democrats are the anti-torture party and the Republicans are the pro-torture party, but there's two big problems with that:

1) It's not entirely accurate. Rendition started under Clinton, and Kerry and Edwards were largely silent about Abu Ghraib during the fall campaign. I am heartened and not a little moved by Durbin's, Reid's, Feingold's, Dodd's, Reed's, Levin's and 30 other Democrats' stand against this. But for many of them and for the Democratic party leadership as a whole, it was the first time they had made such a stand. I was surprised that 36 Democrats voted not to confirm, including every Democrat on judiciary; a few weeks before I figured it would be 4-4 on judiciary and about 25 yea, 20 nay over all. I was also surprised that 0 Republicans voted no. And even then, where the partisan split on the issue became clearer than it ever has been before, six democratic Senators voted for Gonzales and four abstained--if they had not, there would have been enough votes to sustain a filibuster.

2) It's alarmingly close to a concession of defeat. We are out of power in every branch of government right now. If something is to be done about this, we need the active support of some Republicans and the acquiescence of others. If it's true that torture's become a partisan issue, it's also true that if it stays a partisan issue we're screwed. As tempting as it is, I don't think we can't afford to completely give up on people like Graham, Chafee, McCain, and Hagel on this. Not yet. And we certainly can't give up on everyone who voted for George W. Bush. Sebastian, Slarti, and Charles have been better on this than an overwhelming majority of right-of-center bloggers--really than just about any I can think of off the top of my head except maybe Andrew Sullivan (and I don't even know if he counts as right-of-center.)

The first step is convincing people that this is really happening, and it is unacceptable, and that it is not necessary to protect us from being killed in our sleep by Al Qaeda. That will only work if they find us to be credible. Starting with a war crimes complaint against the Secretary of Defense, or a call for impeachment, or a guilt trip directed at all Republican voters, is going to diminish your own credibility in their eyes.

Well said, as always, Katherine.

"I can tell you from very direct personal knowledge than SCORES of suspects were rendered to Egypt by the DoD and CIA with no review.

There were literally hundreds and hundres of hard core and high ranking AQ operatives working with the KLA Kosovo and earlier in Bosnia. We had a regular undergound rairoad to teh middle east security services. do some checking on Ahmed Ibrahim Nagar, who was a very senior Al Queada officer."

The names of suspects rendered to Egypt, during the Clinton years that I know of are, in approximate chronological order and with related groups listed together:
--Talat Fouad Qassem
--Ahmed Osman Saleh, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Naggar, Shawki Salama Attiya, Essam Abdel Tawwab, Mohamed Hassan Tita,
--Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, Essam Mohammed Hafez Marzouq, and Ihab Mohammed Saqr.
(naturally, there seem to be are at least a half dozen variations of each name, due to the different aliases and transliterations.)

Which isn't scores, but it's plenty.

Needless to say, if anyone knows any names that might hypothetically be interesting to google or Lexis searches on, they should feel free to suggest them. :) (if you'd rather email, please use the address on this post, since it's not yet too spam-ridden to be useful.)

"The first step is convincing people that this is really happening, and it is unacceptable, and that it is not necessary to protect us from being killed in our sleep by Al Qaeda. That will only work if they find us to be credible."

This is not to start a food fight on my own hobby horse, or to absolve me from responsibility for not believing it was a serious problem soon enough. I think the Amnesty International history in America is instructive. I don't know any conservative that would have considered it a credible source on the topic of the US for about 15 or 20 years. There had been decades of basically crying wolf with things like its association with the Free Mumia movement. Again, I mention this not to absolve myself of any responsibility to figure things out on my own, but to point out that tactically it might be better to take an approach which does not immediately cause conservatives to think "Ah, another situation where the left is being ridiculous, why should I investigate again only to find that they are talking about not providing the right number of religious mats to pray on or talking about shackling someone throughout a plane ride." I say this because I want the anti-torture side to prevail, and in order to do so you probably need to have some of prominent Republicans think that the reports of torture are real, persistent, and serious.

Jackmormon said: The details about the plane are still confusing to me. ... Anyone know more about this?

The definitive article on the Gulfstream 'Rendition Express' is probably the one by Dana Priest on December 27, which built one a month earlier in the Boston Globe (abstract below).

Boston Globe, November 29, 2004
Terror suspects' torture claims have Mass. link
Secrecy shrouds transfer jet
By Farah Stockman

DEDHAM -- Most here know Hill & Plakias as a family law firm that handles real estate and civil squabbles for the residents of this Boston suburb.

But the inconspicuous office above a Sovereign Bank, across from the red, white, and blue flags of a used car lot called Patriot Motors, is also the address of a shadowy company that owns a Gulfstream jet that secretly ferried two Al Qaeda suspects from Sweden to Egypt.

That prisoner transfer, which occurred outside the normal extradition procedures and without notifying the men's lawyers, sparked an international uproar after the two men contended that they had been forcibly drugged by masked US agents and tortured with electric shocks in Egypt.

This spring, the Swedish government launched a series of investigations into the 2001 operation.

Since that time, the jet -- apparently on long-term lease to the US military -- has surfaced in other alleged cases of what the CIA calls "extraordinary" rendition -- the secret practice of handing prisoners in US custody to foreign governments that don't hesitate to use torture in interrogations.

Also some details from Not in Our Name

Sebastian - if AI was the only source, you would have a stronger case. But, by late last spring, there were plenty of other sources. There were documented accounts in major American newspapers of FBI agents complaining to their supervisors about the interrogation techniques at GTMO as well as the very odd story about a group of JAG attorneys requesting a meeting with the New York City Bar Association's International Human Rights Committee regarding the various Justice Department and White House Counsel memos. I'm pretty sure that those FBI agents and JAG attorneys weren't looking to push Amnesty International's talking points.

Good thing you don't want to start a food fight, Sebastian, because I'm sitting here surrounded by plates and plates of food. But I'm going to take a deep breath and get to work, in the spirit of Katherine's constructive vision for anti-torture legislation.

There are none so blind as those that will not see.

Nell: There are none so blind as those that will not see.

Quite. Sebastian's reluctance to believe Amnesty International when it is critical of the US has been explored quite thoroughly in another thread...

Nell, thanks for the links.

I'm still astonished that the public knows the registration number of the *single* plane used for renditions--I guess I thought the CIA would be sneakier.

I poked around a bit, and it seems like there are three sources of evidence to connect the plane to rendition: (1) anonymous airport officials have seen prisoners being loaded onto this plane in places like Pakistan. (2) plane-watchers have logged this plane's arrivals and departures on hobbyist websites. (3) Sunday Times reporter Stephen Grey "obtained" confidential flight logs for this plane.

I don't know what the detail of the plane actually adds to the story, but it is a curious twist. One would think that the CIA would be more careful to hide this activity.

A question for Katherine:
The specific details that Dan Coleman contributes seems to support very strongly the idea that the CIA has been acting on false, extorted information. The article makes the case pretty definitively that some of our recent intelligence failures can be traced to confessions extracted through torture. Is this new? (I don't recall seeing it argued so strongly in the past.)

On the planes:

there are two cases where someone actually saw a prisoner being loaded onto a jet, and observed the tail number N379P. Those are:

--the Agiza and Al Zery cases in Sweden best reported by the Swedish program Kalla Fakta that someone linked to above.
--the case of Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, who was handed over at the Karachi airport on October 23, 2001 and flown to Jordan. Some airport employees talked to a Pakistani reporter about it a day or so later, and it spread from there. Mohammed hasn't been seen or heard from since as far as I can tell.

So some reporters started looking for records to that plane--both government records, and also to "plane spotters", groups of hobbyists who apparently get their kicks out of watching planes come and go from airports and noting their tail numbers. (Don't ask me) U.S. government records show it was registered to a Massachusetts company called "Premier Executive Transport Services", which:
--seems to be owned by people who don't actually exist, based on the fact that they all got social security numbers in 1998
--have landing permits to just about every airport and U.S. airbase in the world.
--also owned one other plane, a Boeing 737 with the FAA registration number N313P.

From various other official records and unofficial reports, they've figured out some of the planes' movements, but for a given flight you don't necessarily know whether it's picking someone up, dropping someone off, or what. The plane seems to take people to and from Guantanamo and Bagram and the like as well as to and from foreign locations. You also don't know exactly who they're carrying.

Since this has been in the news both planes have had their registration numbers changed a bunch of times and been sold once, but so far it hasn't been that hard for reporters and some, uh, rather enthusiastic amateurs, to trace. (you can imagine how heady it is for indymedia to actually help break an actual story...You can look up all sorts of digital pictures of identical-looking planes with the two different serial numbers, and everything.) And of course it looks even more suspicious when you have three companies owned by people who government records suggest don't exist, instead of just one.

In addition to the stories Nell linked to, and the Kalla Fakta report someone linked to above by the Swedish reporter who was the first one to look into this, this Sunday Times story is the most complete description I've found of the plane's movements. And this Chicago Tribune story tracks the recent sale of the planes & the long chain of different FAA registration numbers they've had.

"A question for Katherine:
The specific details that Dan Coleman contributes seems to support very strongly the idea that the CIA has been acting on false, extorted information. The article makes the case pretty definitively that some of our recent intelligence failures can be traced to confessions extracted through torture. Is this new? (I don't recall seeing it argued so strongly in the past.)"

New to me, but it'd actually been reported before:

"Periscope," Newsweek, July 5, 2004.

TERROR: Swapping Stories A captured Qaeda commander who was a principal source for Bush administration claims that Osama bin Laden collaborated with Saddam Hussein's regime has changed his story. U.S. intelligence officials say that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a onetime member of bin Laden's inner circle, was a crucial source for one of the more dramatic assertions made by President George W. Bush and his top aides: that Iraq had provided training in "poisons and deadly gases" for Al Qaeda. Recently, sources say, U.S. interrogators went back to al-Libi with new evidence that cast doubt on his claims. Al-Libi "subsequently recounted a different story," said one U.S. official. Some officials now suspect that al-Libi, facing aggressive interrogation techniques, had previously said what U.S. officials wanted to hear. In any case, the cloud over his story explains why administration officials have made no mention of the "poisons and gases" claim for some time and did not more forcefully challenge the recent findings of the 9-11 Commission that Al Qaeda and Iraq had not forged a "collaborative relationship."

The debate, however, is far from over. Pentagon officials are culling through captured Iraqi documents they say will provide hard evidence of multiple contacts between Iraqi officials and Qaeda members over a decade. Current plans call for a massive "document dump" before the November election. But officials acknowledge ultimate proof may prove elusive. "It all depends on what your definition of a relationship is," said one.
--Michael Isikoff

"Odyssey into the Shadows," Newsweek, June 24, 2002:

U.S. officials insist they aren't sanctioning torture, but physical discomfort like sleep deprivation, sustained with bright lights and marathon questioning, can work. "I would hope they're using it," says an ex-FBI senior counterterrorism official. And if that doesn't work? "Some of the real bad asses, they've been flying them back to their home countries: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi," where questioning can involve beating and worse, says one well-informed Arab source....And [Abu Zubaydah's] own people are talking, among them his deputy, Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured by Pakistani forces in late December or early January and quickly turned over to U.S. interrogators. By the end of January, al-Libi had disclosed enough to disrupt an alleged Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, a longtime Qaeda hotbed. U.S. officials acknowledge that information from al-Libi also played a part in the capture of Abu Zubaydah himself.

I believe that this story also refers to al-Libi, though there are some inconsistencies:


I'm sure that if the full details ever emerge, "How false intelligence about Iraq's WMD's and Al Qaeda ties from Sheikh Libi's confession to Egyptian intelligence officers tearing out his fingernails got into Colin Powell's speech to the U.N." would make quite a little parable about all that is warped about our current foreign policy. But I would guess that rendition is not the main reason, or even that big a reason, for the intelligence failures on Iraq. Even in Libi's case there seems to have been some true, useful information (about Zubaydah's location) mixed in with the crap. The trouble is sorting it out. That's never easy. It's just that much harder when you're relying on Egyptian intelligence officers' summaries of interrogations, because you can't actually be there in the room with them when they're torturing the guy, because that would be illegal. Except John Yoo says that's legal too.

Gah. This is why Seymour Hersh looks more depressed every time you see him on TV, huh?

Okay, enough of this.

oops, here's the third story.

"Mixed Reviews from Experts. Critics: Make Case on Deceit, Not Terror”, by Knut Royce, Newsday, 2/6/03:

Cannistraro said the link made by Powell between Hussein and al-Zarqawi was "not made solidly but circumstantially." Some of the information, he said, comes from a detainee held by Kurds who claims to have been an Iraqi intelligence agent. The information, he said, was "a little soft."

Better intelligence, he said, has come from a senior al-Qaida detainee who had been held in the U.S. base at Guantanamo, Cuba, and was "rendered" to Egypt after refusing to cooperate. "They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started to tell things," he said. It was this detainee, he said, who opened up several cases now being investigated in Europe that tie al-Zarqawi to several alleged terrorists in a plot to use ricin toxin. U.S. officials deny that they condone torture by allies in the campaign against terrorism.

I think that's probably Libi they're talking about. There are some inconsistencies, but I would guess it's the same guy.

I guess "promptly tore his fingernails out" may just be a colorful metaphor or a rumor--who the f*ck knows. It was a memorable quote, though.

Katherine wirtes:

"It's emotionally satisfying to tell ourselves that Democrats are the anti-torture party and the Republicans are the pro-torture party, but there's two big problems with that . . ."

While that WAS arguably true, and I think it incorrect, it surely is not true in the wake of the Gonzales debate. It is accurate to say the Democratic PArty is anti-torture and the Republican Party is pro-torture TODAY.

It was a memorable quote, though

i was struck by the little bit about anal rape via German Shepherd.

hard to claim that moral high ground when our leadership is having such fun in the gutter.

Italics begone!

but we loveses the italicses ! :(

Giblet asks, as only Giblets can, Who among us wouldn't torture John McCain to stop a ticking bomb?.

BBC "File on 4" Program" here. There's a brief summary, and if you click on the Audio link you can listen to the whole thing. The reporter is Stephen Grey. I'm about halfway through. Again: not so much new information, but there is some stuff--interviews with Michael Scheuer (who sounds like a tremendous geek) and Robert Baer.

It's really just unnbelievably unnerving hearing Arar's voice for the first time in all this. It turns out I've been pronouncing his first name wrong all along. It's "May-her" (pronounced like the month), not "Ma-her" (like "Ma and Pa").

Thanks for the info, Katherine.

Ugh, this whole fiasco is just awful. Any party that wants my vote has to stand up against this. (Calling new DNC leader!)

"Any party that wants my vote has to stand up against this. (Calling new DNC leader!)"

How about the first and second most powerful Senate Democrats? (The first link is about Reid, the others are all about Durbin.)

And since this comes up uner "rendition" I hope you are aware that Clinton, Wesley Clarke and Janet Reno had no trouble "rendering" many terrorists and alleged toerrorists in Albania to Egypt, Saudi adn Syria.

a) There is nothing Clinton, Clarke or Reno can do about "rendition" at this point in time.

b) I can only observe that if the Republican Party had been busy doing something other than obsessing over the Clenis, they might have been able to stop the policy before it took effect or as soon as they found out about it.

c) Since the Republicans are in control of all three branches of goverment, they can stop this policy.( I am not holding my breath.)

If you would like to read about the most interesting case of FBI rendition, which Dan Coleman knows all about since his friends did it, read about the three Americans in Afghanistan who were close to capturing several top terrorists before the FBI and were then wrongfully imprisoned and tortured with FBI agents present.

read www.superpatriots.us/aboutthecase/khalilzadsuit.htm

These are not three arab terrorists, these are three American heroes and they were tortured brutally by FBI proxies with FBI agents present. Their names are Idema, Bennet, and Caraballo, and nothing the press has reported has been true because their "anyonomous sources" were all FBI agents and people working with the FBI. see: www.superpatriots.us

Rendition allows us to prove guilt of a terrorist
No. 113416 File: rendition NEG ZMC :: Extrodinary Rendition Cut By Zach Collins
Total Time: 1:08 Cut Time: 0:00 (at 200 wpm)
Reuel Marc Gerecht Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard. He is a former case officer in the clandestine service of the CIA
The Weekly Standard / May 16, 2005 Page Lexus
Title: Against Rendition; Why the CIA shouldn't outsource interrogations to countries that torture

If we are to be brutally honest, the compelling reason why Washington has backed rendition is that the Clinton and Bush administrations wanted our Arab allies to do what we can no longer countenance by our own hand (and anyone who thinks Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib disprove this point is ignorant of the history of professionally administered torture). If we understand rendition as do many CIA intelligence officers, we know it has two great advantages. The outsourcing of torture is, especially for the Americans who must otherwise administer the pain, easily the more attractive. The other big plus is that rendition eliminates the Guantanamo detention problem (or, in the case of the Clinton administration, criminal court cases that national security adviser Samuel Berger always feared losing). Proving guilt in a U.S. civilian or military court through the use of even rock-solid, politely obtained intelligence can be extremely difficult. Proving guilt in such a court with the use of similarly hard intelligence gained through physical abuse is impossible. Rendition also solves the problem of how to deal with minor-league would-be Islamic terrorists or guerrillas who may or may not have had the United States in their sights. These are individuals who are guilty by association with al Qaeda and its allied groups but would never, ever be prosecuted in an American civilian or military court for lack of legally admissible evidence.


can you refer to attorney in re to:
i am one of those tortured by contractor of US govt.
noting camp x ray {meaning radiological monitoring} i am subjected to, by force:
interrogation
human computer technology for cyber sex by force {sympathetic haptics/ teledildonics};
exploitaion for computer based viewing for pormnography of afillate CIA;

transmission white noise for sleep deprivation;
electric shock by electromagnetic pulse;
torture re psychologica effects using virtual reality/ human computer technology/ artificial intelligence/quantum computers/ double disc drives.
subject to brain mapping/brain prininting/ voice printing;
threats monopolization of perception.

i habe been subjected to this persons acts for past 10 years; subjected to B/E by force; thefts damaged/ destroyed property; subjected to cyber terrorism/assault with WMD {directed energy weapons intelligence} of which person has weaponized US airspace.
this is of concern to every US person.
cases/ evidence/ contact/ documentation/photos/ attorney reference.
case reference 92-0449 john st clair akwei vs ft meade md of which i want to sue:
malcolm tombs 24 cumberland tce
willington, co durham dl15 opb Uk xsas@hotmail.com contact 01388 745645;
operator site http://www.bodyguards-pba.com

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