Today President Bush said this:
"We do not render to countries that torture. That has been our policy, and that policy will remain the same."
Sometimes, it's possible to find some peculiar way of interpreting this administration's claims about torture and detention that makes them technically true. Do they say that it is not US policy to condone torture? Well, maybe if your definition of torture is strict enough that it doesn't include waterboarding, beatings not serious enough to cause as much pain as the failure of a major organ, and so on. Of course, almost no one outside the administration defines torture this way, but hey: why quibble? Do they say that we abide by all US and international laws? Well, given their interpretation of those laws as not governing CIA activities carried out outside the US, and their view that the President's war powers allow him to legally set aside laws and treaties, maybe this comes out true as well -- at least if you disregard such niggling details as the fact that neither the US Supreme Court nor other signatories to those treaties agree with this interpretation.
But there is no interpretation of the claim that we do not render suspects to countries that torture that makes that claim true. None at all. For the record, here are some instances in which we have rendered detainees to countries that the State Department's Human Rights Report describes as using torture:
"Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department.
The so-called rendition program, under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terrorism suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, has linked the United States to other countries with poor human rights records. But the turnabout in relations with Uzbekistan is particularly sharp. Before Sept. 11, 2001, there was little high-level contact between Washington and Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, beyond the United States' criticism.
Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens."
From the State Department's report on Uzbekistan:
" Unlike past years, there were no credible reports of persons dying in custody as a result of torture; however, police and security force negligence likely contributed to the deaths of at least four persons. Police and, to a lesser extent, NSS forces tortured, beat, and harassed persons; however, officials of both agencies and the procuracy participated in dialogues with human rights activists and allowed international and local human rights groups to take part in independent investigations of deaths in custody in which torture had been alleged."
Egypt (only one of a bunch of cases I could have used):
"The same month, in Indonesia, Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, suspected of helping Richard C. Reid, the Briton charged with trying to detonate explosives in his shoe on an American Airlines flight, was detained by Indonesian intelligence agents based on information the CIA provided them. On Jan. 11, without a court hearing or a lawyer, he was hustled aboard an unmarked U.S.-registered Gulfstream V jet parked at a military airport in Jakarta and flown to Egypt."
From the State Department's report on Egypt:
"The security forces continued to mistreat and torture prisoners, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, hold detainees in prolonged pretrial detention, and occasionally engage in mass arrests. Local police killed, tortured, and otherwise abused both criminal suspects and other persons. "
"On a stopover in New York as he was returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia in September 2002, U.S. officials detained Arar, claiming he has links to al-Qaeda, and deported him to Syria, even though he was carrying a Canadian passport. "
From the State Department's report on Syria:
"Continuing serious abuses included the use of torture in detention, which at times resulted in death; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; prolonged detention without trial; fundamentally unfair trials in the security courts; and infringement on privacy rights."
"After a brief interrogation, Abu Zubayda was handed over to the Americans, who took him to Bagram and then, it is believed, flew him on to Jordan, where he has been held, along with several other high-value prisoners, in prisons in the capital, Amman, and in desert locations in the east of the country. Jordanian investigators are seen as 'professional' by Western intelligence services, although the nation has been repeatedly criticised for its human rights record."
From the State Department's report on Jordan:
"Reported continuing abuses included police abuse and mistreatment of detainees, allegations of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, lack of transparent investigations and of accountability within the security services resulting in a climate of impunity, denial of due process of law stemming from the expanded authority of the State Security Court and interference in the judicial process, infringements on citizens' privacy rights, harassment of members of opposition political parties, and significant restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association."
I could go on (Saudi Arabia, Morocco, etc.), but why bother? It's clear that we render prisoners to countries that engage in torture. So why has our President just flatly denied it?
Are we so inured to administration dishonesty that when our President says something that's simply and obviously false, no one cares?
Update: Apparently, we are. The Washington Post's story on Bush's remarks doesn't mention his claim that we don't render prisoners to countries that torture. The AP does, but way down in the article. Only Reuters gives it any prominence.