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February 01, 2009

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I like your new moniker: SuperUser!

Do you have a cape? ;-)

Are we cool with the kidnapping bits now?

Extraordinary rendition is rendition outside these established legal processes: e.g., kidnapping someone abroad so that s/he can be brought to the US to stand trial, or delivering someone to another country to be tortured.

If I'm reading this right, it would be extraordinary rendition if US forces were to capture Zawahiri or Bin Laden in Pakistan and bring them to the United States for trial. We can certainly argue about whether that would be appropriate, but it really muddies the debate to lump that in with torture by proxy.

Taking Eichmann to Jerusalem is one thing. It's quite another to take yet another Yemeni goatherd to a Syrian dungeon. Let's keep those issues separate.

"If the LA Times is right to claim that the Obama administration has left open the possibility of extraordinary renditions, that would be a huge problem."

This is a little confusing. They are leaving open that possibility, and clearly stating they won't send anyone to be tortured in a third country. The one doesn't contradict the other. You don't have to read the orders: it's there in the story.

[...] In his executive order on lawful interrogations, Obama created a task force to reexamine renditions to make sure that they "do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture," or otherwise circumvent human rights laws and treaties.
Etc.

"The Times cites 'Current and former U.S. intelligence officials' in support of its thesis."

Huh? What thesis?

"The author of the Times article, however, defines
'rendition' as 'secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.'"

Um, no, he doesn't.

[...] Defenders of the rendition program point out that it has been an effective tool since the early 1990s and was often used to bring terrorism suspects to courts in the United States. Among them was Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was captured in Pakistan and was convicted of helping orchestrate the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

[...]

The implication was that most were rendition-related, with some taking suspects to states where they faced torture.

Some. There's no sweeping definition of "rendition" as always "transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States." That's just not what the story says.

I'm guessing you're resting your statement on this poorly punctuated sentence: "Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States."

First of all, that would be far better with a colon, not a comma. Secondly, it's simply not all that's in the story, and the rest of the story doesn't use "rendition" to mean that dangling phrase.

Shorter Gary: the story is poorly worded and edited, but when a story has contradictory usages or claims, you can't say the story "says" this, you have to say that a given sentence or sentences say that, while contradicted by other parts of the story. If you wish to accurately describe what the story does say.

Gary: true enough. Will update. I still think the author is pretty confused about all this stuff, though.

Thanks.

"I still think the author is pretty confused about all this stuff, though."

Newspaper copy is heavily edited, so it's almost always unclear to us readers whether the author is confused, or the story got messed up in the editing. But, as I said, it's a poorly worded story all around.

Bob Gates is still Secretary of Defense, though.

And I've noticed that you have consistently avoided discussing the problem of how Obama can deal with torture in the military under Bush, when he intends to keep on Bush's choice of Secretary of Defense.

So, I'm not actually that impressed with your assertion that you will "call them on it"... It doesn't appear that you wish to do so.

Jes: I do not know anything about Gates' views on torture. I do know that he signed on as Secretary of Defense under Bush, but how he implemented Bush's policies, I do not know. I can imagine any number of reasons why someone might have done that, some good and some bad.

I do not agree with you that we can read Gates' views on torture off of anything, still less that we can read anything about the Obama's administration's views on torture off from the decision to keep Gates on as SecDef.

So I don't think that constitutes a need for calling anyone on anything. Nor do I think that not discussing something I don't know enough to discuss counts as consistently avoiding anything, but that's a subject for another day.

I do not know anything about Gates' views on torture. I do know that he signed on as Secretary of Defense under Bush, but how he implemented Bush's policies, I do not know. I can imagine any number of reasons why someone might have done that, some good and some bad.

From browsing the results of a Google search for "gates secretary of defense torture", it looks like Gates has at least been saying the right things with regard to torture, and particularly with regard to waterboarding and other techniques that the previous Secretary of Defense specifically argued were *not* torture. He hasn't pushed for prosecutions all throughout DoD, but he looks like a dramatic improvement over Rumsfeld.

Rendition is right place for dont ask dont tell. I agree U.S. should no torture because it harmful to international reputation. But why U.S. care what others countries do to terrorist?

why do everyone care so much about torture? I not try to start trouble but be serious. Why? If pacifist then I understand because against all violence. But if you think war OK what make torture so much worse. I talk to people who think it fine to fire lead bullets through persons organs, use bombs that shatter bombs and burn people to death, and they think fine if happens to civilian's so long as that "collateral damage" not purpose target, but then they say how awful it be to pour water on terrorists' face. Why?

I not say torture always right. I not know if even efficacy because people maybe just lie. But I not understand huge moral problem with tactics that not kill or even cause permanent injury when bombing and shooting is fine. If were insurgent I rather be captures and watered then have 500 pound bomb kill me and family.

"But why U.S. care what others countries do to terrorist?"

Because we like to think we have morals, and a sense of right and wrong.

"why do everyone care so much about torture?"

Because it's wrong. In war, we have rules (codified in the various Geneva Conventions), and torture is prohibited. It may seem odd to have rules in war, but we do, and for good reasons, and there's a whole field of moral reasoning on Jus in bello, the laws of acceptable conduct in war. (Try here for plenty of reading on the topic.)

And we do things differently in war, than when we're not at war, in any case.

This isn't a news story. This is lobbying via reporter. Some people have a vested interest in this nonsense going on, and are doing a full-court press to make sure it does. We need strong countervailing pressure, and also to call this out for what it is.

A love letter from Moe Lane.

(He even misspells your name, Hil. Cute.)

Remember that when - not “if”; “when” - we get the first stories of somebody handed off to… probably Libya, at this rate; it’s precisely the sort of stupid choice you’d see from too-self-aware-of-their-own-smartness people - and wired up to a car battery. You voted for this. You made this happen. You were the change that you believed in. You were warned.

And I’ll sleep like a baby. That’s because I voted for the other guy.

Moe Lane

PS: You may take my refusal to link to the above sites as the calculated insult that it is.

So, can we finally and firmly dispense with the comfortable fiction that Moe Lane has even a single shred of decency left and, since he no longer comments here (and likely never will comment here again), call him out for being a vindictive, petty, bitter asshole?

(And, yes, speaking solely for myself /BTD)

Does anybody actually believe that comfortable fiction anymore? Every so often he comes up elsewhere, and the response (from people who used to comment here back in the day) is pretty much unanimously "WTF happened to his brain?"

"And I’ll sleep like a baby. That’s because I voted for the other guy."

Anyone hear of John McCain coming out against rendition of any sort?

"PS: You may take my refusal to link to the above sites as the calculated insult that it is."

How wude. (Quotes from Moe.)

But on the odd chance that Moe stops foaming long enough to look over here: "The only thing left is to hand these sons of bitches over to countries without our Bill of Rights and hope that this is enough."

Of course, things left include, you know, trying the accused in courts of law, and either locking them up or letting them go. It's an old trick, but it just might work. Saying it isn't so turns out, scientific studies reveal, not to make something so.

This story reeks of something that should be very familiar to us. Someone inside a government agency doesn't like the policy coming down from on high, so finds a friendly reporter to spin their take on it, leaking some plausible tidbits.

During the Bush regime, this was how we learned any number of crimes were being committed. Here we seem to have a person/people inside government who fear that Obama might/has taken away what they think is a valuable tool. So they spin any available ambiguity in the situation as a kind of test of whether the Obama folks will either repudiate or perhaps bite.

We really have to learn to recognise this behavior from people in government who don't like Obama's direction. We lived off it under Bush -- we should expect it in the opposite direction now, insofar as Obama actually turns the ship of state in a new direction.

mattt: yeah, I saw that. What bothered me more was the suggestion that if Obama had backslid on rendition, I would have become a supporter of torture because I voted for someone who promised to end it during the campaign. As though there were no other options available to me, like: no longer supporting Obama, or: supporting him because I thought something else was more important, but hating this aspect of what he did, etc. (I mean, I hope that the fact that I would have voted for FDR does not make me a supporter of the internment of the Japanese.)

I am sure Moe does have shreds of decency. I don't think this post, or for that matter many of his political posts, show them off to their best advantage, but politics is not everything.

And generosity matters.

If I'm reading this right, it would be extraordinary rendition if US forces were to capture Zawahiri or Bin Laden in Pakistan and bring them to the United States for trial.

How would that be different from what we did to Noriega in Panama 20 years ago? U.S. courts decided he broke U.S. law, U.S. military forces invaded for the express purpose of bringing him here for trial, where he was found guilty and put in U.S. prison.

Reading Moe's rant left me kind of speechless.

Correct me if I am wrong, wasn't Moe a moderate voice here back in the day?

What the heck happened with Moe?

U.S. military forces invaded for the express purpose of bringing [Noriega] here for trial

And killed a couple of thousand other Panamanians into the bargain.

That invasion was a demonstration war -- the demonstration being to every military or political leader in the third world of what happens to sons of bitches in the pay of the U.S. who don't stay bought.

Noriega's actual crime, the one that provoked the invasion, was to turn into a vocal opponent of the U.S. war on Nicaragua, and the regional U.S. counterinsurgency ops (including drug trafficking) that supported it in Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador.

That episode was to legal rendition what the invasion of Iraq was to UN weapons inspections.

"What the heck happened with Moe?"

He ain't no Manny, Jack.

---

Nell: I was thinking of you tonight when I was reading the current Newsweek. Check out the kickoff photo in the mag's very good photo spread the of the Inauqural doings -- Cheney just looks so, so evil. (Actually, the shot is quite good.)

"Correct me if I am wrong, wasn't Moe a moderate voice here back in the day?"

Moe was a conservative voice, not a moderate, and he was always a bit brittlely on the edge of jumping down people's throats, particularly in response to generalities that insulted Republicans, but he was also the primary founder of ObWi (along with Katherine R. on the left, Edward on the left, and Von in the middle of them), and primary administrator of ObWi, and also could be a funny guy, and would also do threads about gaming and comics and sf and the like.

At some point after he quit he became Very Very Very Angry, and hasn't stopped raging since, apparently.

Correct me if I am wrong, wasn't Moe a moderate voice here back in the day?

He was a voice here back in the day, but Moe Lane was never a moderate anything, and more's the pity that people ever believed that he was. And like so many other popular rightbloggers, he was turned into such a pants-wettting mess by 9/11 that he believes that, another incident exactly like it or worse being absolutely inevitable, we must prevent it by any means necessary, legal, illegal or otherwise.

What Gary said on torture. We are against torture because it is intrinsically evil. We are against torture because, ultimately, it ends up doing as much damage to us as it does to those we inflict it on. Instead of acting as a cheerleader for torture, it might be a good idea to spend that time, oh I don't know, improving our intelligence operations.

Rendition is just moving people from one jurisdiction (in the cases at hand, one country) to another; includes all sorts of perfectly normal things, like extradition, which are not problematic legally.

Fine, it includes extradition according to treaties the US has with other countries, but what else does it include? What does the Obama administration official mean by "preserving some tools"? If he was only talking about practices perfectly legal under international law, why the need to leave room for vague formulations such as "certain parameters" and "acceptable practice"?

If it's legal there shouldn't be any question as to the acceptability of such practices, yet it seems he's trying to establish a grey area here. And that becomes clear when he mentions the "big storm this practice kicked up in Europe" and asserts the right of the US to "go after the bad guys". Apparently the Obama administration doesn't share the view that US has no right to capture, detain and transfer "bad guys" on the territory of sovereign nations.

One has to make a decision here: either one respects the sovereignty and jurisdiction of other countries according to international law, or one is willing to disregard them and and assert a right of the US to kidnap and transfer suspects anywhere in the world. It seems that Obama wants to continue the latter practice and that many in the US are just fine with it, as long as the suspects aren't tortured.

Hil: And generosity matters.

You're a bigger (and better) person than I, Hil. Suppose that's why they pay you the big $$s. Er, they are paying you the big $$s, right?

;-)

Gary,

Saying it wrong because it wrong just beg question. You can say it wrong because against international law, but most American's not accept major premise that actions violate international law is wrong. U.S. routinely violate international law, so I thinks you need say why its' important by follow that international law in particular.

Feddie,

I not think their agreed standards by which what "intrinsically evil." Why not whatever ethics deontological prohibit torture prohibit war in generality? No one address why shooting and bombing OK, but waterboard not.

Interesting point. I am generally in favor of international law myself, but Obama has indicated with his continued military strikes into Pakistan that his acceptance of international law is only up to a point, and not an absolute.

Given the situation, if the insurgents are operating freely across the border and Pakistan is not preventing this either deliberately or through incapacity, it is hard to deny cross-border operations. Granted they are effectively acts of war against Pakistan, but then Pakistan's allowing itself to be used as a base area is an act of war against the US and Afghanistan.

I worry a lot about these operations, but more because they could destabilize Pakistan and create a radical theocracy there than because they are violating international law. While I am not a lawyer, IMHO under international law, Pakistan should have every Taliban combatant in an internment camp, just the way the Swiss treated Allied pilots in WW2.

No one address why shooting and bombing OK, but waterboard not.

Because, theoretically, in war it is a fair fight -- soldiers fighting other soldiers.

Torture is not a fair fight. One defenseless and unarmed person is completely under the control of another, and the stronger party chooses to inflict pain and terror on the helpless one.

Well said, Svensker.

Because, theoretically, in war it is a fair fight -- soldiers fighting other soldiers.

The operative word being "theoretically" here - the casualty figures tell a different story.

More importantly, though, most torture victims have a life ahead of them, however damaged it might be, while death is final. All the more reason to be very, very careful when discussing jus ad bellum.

Gee, I wonder how quickly ol' Moe will be apologizing:

The Los Angeles Times just got punked. Its description of the European Parliament’s report is not accurate. (Point of disclosure: I served as an expert witness in hearings leading to the report.) But that’s the least of its problems. It misses the difference between the renditions program, which has been around since the Bush 41 Administration at least (and arguably in some form even in the Reagan Administration) and the extraordinary renditions program which was introduced by Bush 43 and clearly shut down under an executive order issued by President Obama in his first week.

There are two fundamental distinctions between the programs. The extraordinary renditions program involved the operation of long-term detention facilities either by the CIA or by a cooperating host government together with the CIA, in which prisoners were held outside of the criminal justice system and otherwise unaccountable under law for extended periods of time. A central feature of this program was rendition to torture, namely that the prisoner was turned over to cooperating foreign governments with the full understanding that those governments would apply techniques that even the Bush Administration considers to be torture. This practice is a felony under current U.S. law, but was made a centerpiece of Bush counterterrorism policy.

The earlier renditions program regularly involved snatching and removing targets for purposes of bringing them to justice by delivering them to a criminal justice system. It did not involve the operation of long-term detention facilities and it did not involve torture. There are legal and policy issues with the renditions program, but they are not in the same league as those surrounding extraordinary rendition. Moreover, Obama committed to shut down the extraordinary renditions program, and continuously made clear that this did not apply to the renditions program.

In the course of the last week we’ve seen a steady stream of efforts designed to show that Obama is continuing the counterterrorism programs that he previously labeled as abusive and promised to shut down. These stories are regularly sourced to unnamed current or former CIA officials and have largely run in right-wing media outlets. However, now we see that even the Los Angeles Times can be taken for a ride.

"And generosity matters."

Good words to live by; but as mattbastard said, Hil, your humanity is commendable.

Gee, I wonder how quickly ol' Moe will be apologizing:

When he returns to sanity (assuming he was ever there in the first place).

What about this UK Telegraph piece that comments on Section 2(g) of Obama's order?

Section 2 (g) of the order, appears to allow the US authorities to continue detaining and interrogating terror suspects as long as it does not hold them for long periods. It reads: "The terms "detention facilities" and "detention facility" in section 4(a) of this order do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis."

Full article is here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/4425135/Barack-Obama-to-allow-anti-terror-rendition-to-continue.html

Gee, I wonder how quickly ol' Moe will be apologizing:

Based on this, I'd say "not any time soon".

House of Brat: that section says:

"The terms "detention facilities" and "detention facility" in section 4(a) of this order do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis."

Sec. 4a, in turn, says:

"(a) CIA Detention. The CIA shall close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and shall not operate any such detention facility in the future."

One can interpret this in two ways: (a) Obama does not want to say that the CIA cannot detain people even for an hour, say before turning them over to the authorities in their own country (and let's assume, for the moment, a country like Sweden, which does not torture.) He's just being precise. Or (b) Obama is trying to leave a giant loophole over -- he will construe 'short-term, transitory' to mean 'less than 500 years', and eviscerate sec. 4a.

One reason to think he means the former rather than the latter is Sec. 4b of the order, which is not subject to any short-term exception. This section requires that the ICRC have access to detainees. In practice, this will mean that the CIA cannot have secret detention facilities: the ICRC would know about them, and the ICRC is not a US puppet. Moreover, the ICRC would also be in a position to determine if any detainees were being tortured.

Another reason is that, as I said in the post, rendering prisoners to countries where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be tortured is prohibited elsewhere in the order. The order also requires compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

What section prohibits transferring individuals to other countries? I just see it mentioned in the "study" portion. Thanks.

Section 6. You could make make an argument for 3a as well, but you don't really need to since 6 lays it out clearly.

Someone has pointed Michael Ledeen at the Washington Monthly version of this post:

An author I don't know, writing at The Washington Monthly, argues that "rendition" would not permit CIA to transfer terrorists to foreign countries that practice torture. I hope he's [sic] right,

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