Thursday, February 05, 2009

Update on Obama and Rendition

A few days ago I wrote about an apparent loophole in Obama's executive order dealing with the treatment of suspected terrorists, as it appeared that Obama had left open the possibility of continuing the policy of "extraordinary rendition" used by the Bush Administration. I did note that it was likely that "even if Obama does render prisoners to other countries that he will procure assurances that the prisoners will not be subject to torture."

Today, Obama's CIA director-to-be Leon Panetta confirms this view, stating that while rendition will continue, prisoners will not be delivered to countries for the purpose of conducting secret interrogations possibly involving torture. According to Panetta:
I think renditions where we return individuals to another country where they prosecute them under their laws, I think that is an appropriate use of rendition. Having said that, if we capture a high-value prisoner, I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily, to debrief that individual and to make sure that individual is properly incarcerated so we can maintain control over that individual.
Now, if the practice of rendition remain availabe for use, there's nothing necessarily preventing Obama from using it in the way that Bush did. But for now, at least, Panetta's testimony seems to make a clean break from the Bush Administration and close the door on the use of rendition as a back-door to torture.

3 comments:

rob said...

I may be wrong, but wasn't there an anti-rendition law that was passed in the US in the last decade or so that requires that no-torture assurances be received before rendition happens? Perhaps the law was debated, but never passed... I'm not sure. But either way, critics said that the assurance provision was clearly a loophole that functionally did nothing to prevent torture.

Seth Weinberger said...

Yes, there was...but an assurance is only that: an assurance. It's not a guarantee. Effectively, Obama is reiterating the need to get that assurance, but that does not guarantee that those rendered will not be tortured.

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