Obama preserves rendition two days after taking office
Published: Sunday February 1, 2009
Two days after taking the helm of a country ready for change after eight years of George W. Bush, President Obama has allowed one controversial "War on Terror" tactic to remain in place: rendition.
Despite frequent condemnation of the practice around the world, rendition -- the secret capture, transportation and detention of suspected terrorists to foreign prisons in countries that cooperate with the U.S. -- remains in the CIA's playbook, thanks to a Jan. 22 executive order issued by President Obama.
Other executive orders shuttered the CIA's secret prisons and banned the harsh interrogation techniques that have been termed torture. And in his most widely noticed break with his predecessor, Obama signed an order to close Guantanamo Bay's prison within one year.
But rendition will remain. Obama and his administration appear to believe that the rendition program was one piece of the Bush administration's war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard, the Los Angeles Times reported.
An administration official told the newspaper anonymously: "Obviously you need to preserve some tools -- you still have to go after the bad guys. 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."
The momentous decision by Obama and his young administration appeared in a small provision of one executive order, which states that instructions to close the CIA's secret prison sites "do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis."
Under that language, the Soviet-era black site used by the CIA between 2002 and 2004 and revealed by Raw Story in 2007 would remain open. Intelligence officials signaled the facility would no longer be used after it received broad public attention in the Polish press.
In late 2007, the U.S. House voted to effectively end CIA renditions. But that prohibition, part of a $50 billion Iraq funding bill, was never passed in the Senate. Also in 2007, Congress apologized for the wrongful detainment of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was "rendered" to Syria, where he was tortured into making a false confession.
Obama's decision to continue rendition on an apparently limited basis revives questions about the tactic's effectiveness -- not to mention legality.
"The reason we did interrogations [ourselves] is because renditions for the most part weren't very productive," a former senior CIA official told the Los Angeles Times anonymously.
But surprisingly, Human Rights Watch -- the worldwide watchdog group that vehemently opposed Bush-era secret detentions facilities and torture tactics -- supports Obama's decision to continue the practice of rendition.
"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told the Los Angeles Times. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured..."
But the former CIA official wasn't quite so optimistic.
"In some ways, [rendition] is the worst option," the former official said. "If [the prisoners] are in U.S. hands, you have a lot of checks and balances, medics and lawyers. Once you turn them over to another service, you lose control."
Link to article: http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Obama_preserves_rendition_in__0201.html