Friday, May 15, 2009

Rendition and Accountability

**Selected as a recommended diary on**

There has been a recent trend to compare the actions of one administration to another, in the defense of torture and rendition. Here's the part they're missing when trying to defend the Bush Administration and compare their actions to the Clinton Administration; Prior to 9/11, rendition was an acceptable legal authority to extradite suspects and known terrorists back to either their home nation or a nation that had a warrant for that suspect. This was conducted under the auspices of treaty agreements between the US and said nation. Torture was no doubt conducted in some of those nations, but once a suspect was under the legal jurisdiction of that nation, we did not control the events. We may even have suspected that torture was going to be or was conducted.....but under the treaty obligations, we did not have the authority to withhold that suspect without evidence of impending torture.

In 1979, the Justice Department re-affirmed the US statute that states that the executive needs congressional authority for rendition transfers; must be in accordance with treaty or statute authority; AND the rendition must be for the primary purpose of bringing that suspect to trial. The statute prevents the executive from transferring a suspect back to a nation where they would be subject to political persecution; so if someone can make a case that the Clinton Administration was guilty of knowingly violating that portion of the statute, then state your case.

After 9/11, under the Bush Administration, the policy was changed to extraordinary rendition, where the executive relied upon the Office of Legal Counsel [notably Yoo] to formulate [or invent] legal precedence to render someone to another nation without the primary purpose being a trial, and knowing that political persecution [or torture] would take place. In fact, Yoo could only cite the executive's powers under Article II, as it concerns the Geneva Convention and Convention Against Torture, where it deals with Prisoners of War. Ironic, as Bush declared Al Qaeda and other groups as not being POW's [again upon requested advice from the OLC]

The process of rendition dates back to the authorizations of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, but held that rendition must be bound by treaty and statute law, with checks and balances in place by Congress. Those safeguards were completely removed by the Bush Administration, and rendition [no extraordinary rendition] entered the realm of independent and arbitrary executive law.

Legal experts have long stated that harsh methods of interrogation used in unlawful rendition would nullify potential prosecutions because evidence and confessions would have to be discarded by the court, as they had been illegally coerced. In 1998, Congress stated in the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act (FARRA) that: `It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.' . To do otherwise would violate our obligations under Article 3 of the Convention against Torture.

The TORTURE VICTIMS RELIEF ACT OF 1998 further spells out what treatment is abhorrent and unlawful in the eyes of the US government.

And that merely scrapes the surface of the policy of rendition, then and now. One legal and with oversight, one without. You are free to make a case where the Clinton Administration probably knew that torture was conducted in some cases, but to attempt to compare those practices, under legal auspices, with Bush's policy, with black sites and not for purpose of grasping at vapor trails of partisanship.

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