Rendition, the situation where the US remanded suspects to countries whose "interrogation" techniques go beyond what would be allowed under US law, was bad when President Bush did it. At least according to Human Rights Watch. A statement by HRW from less than one year ago captured by Professor Darren Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice fiercely proclaims
Repudiate the use of rendition to torture as a counterterrorism tactic and permanently discontinue the CIA's rendition program;
Disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including detainees who were rendered to Jordan;
Repudiate the use of "diplomatic assurances" against torture and ill-treatment as a justification for the transfer of a suspect to a place where he or she is at risk of such abuse;
Make public any audio recordings or videotapes that the CIA possesses of interrogations of detainees rendered by the CIA to foreign custody;
Provide appropriate compensation to all persons arbitrarily detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody (emphasis added).
But now that President Obama has reserved Renditions for his counter-terrorism plan, Human Rights Watch is not so adamant
"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "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 that designing that system is going to take some time."
I myself would rather see US operatives employ "enhanced" interrogation methods when deemed essential and end the Rendition program where the interrogation techinques are very much out of our control.
CIA veterans involved in renditions characterized the program as important but of limited intelligence-gathering use. It is used mainly for terrorism suspects not considered valuable enough for the CIA to keep, they said.
The most valuable intelligence on Al Qaeda came from prisoners who were in CIA custody and questioned by agency experts, the official said. Once prisoners were turned over to Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere, the agency had limited influence over how much intelligence was shared, how prisoners were treated and whether they were later released.
"In some ways, [rendition] is the worst option," the former official said. "If they 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."
Now one might think that President Obama has traded a good policy for a bad one: Curtailing interrogation techniques to the Army Field Manual while allowing outright torture to take place on foreign soil. But that may not really the case. It just appears to be the case.
Within the Executive Order entitled "Ensuring Lawful Interrogations" a Special Task Force is created to
study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in Army Field Manual 2 22.3, when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies;
The report is due to the President within 180 days of the issuance of the Executive Order. The report could decide that other techniques beyond the Army Field Manual "provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation" and would be authorized for use by the CIA and similar intelligence gathering organizations. And unless the New York Times blew the whistle, we may never know what other techniques, if any, are authorized.
But what are the chances that the New York Times would blow the whistle on Obama? After all, he's Not Bush.
And what are the chances that even if they did, Human Rights Watch would find an excuse as to why it's OK under President Obama was was evil under President Bush?
Pretty good, I think.