Human Rights Watch: Illegal kidnapping and imprisonment under Bush = “basic violation”, illegal kidnapping and imprisonment under Obama = “legitimate”
Monday, Feb 2nd, 2009
One of president Obama’s first actions in office was to sign an executive order securing the continued practice of secretly capturing, transporting and imprisoning so called “enemy combatants” it has been revealed.
Under executive orders issued by Obama just two days into his tenure, 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, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“The Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.” writes Greg Miller.
A minor provision within one executive order states that instructions to close the CIA’s secret prisons “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis”, meaning that some so called “black sites” can remain open.
Though former CIA officials have admitted that rendition is mostly unproductive, an administration official told the LA Times 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.”
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The black sites hit the headlines in late 2005 when U.S. and foreign intelligence officials blew the whistle on the CIA’s practice of hiding and interrogating “al Qaeda” captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe.
The secret facility was revealed to be part of a covert CIA prison system, set up after 9/11, that at various times included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The Washington Post refused to name the European countries involved after pressure from senior U.S. officials.
Horror stories of brutality and psychological torture of detainees at the secret prisons emerged soon after.
Prominent human rights lawyers, as well as The European Parliament have declared rendition illegal under international law. In late 2007, the U.S. House voted to end CIA renditions, however, the prohibition was never passed in the Senate.
Claude Moraes, a British Labour MEP who was part of the European committee investigating CIA renditions, said it was hard to criticise Mr Obama because he had “god-like status at the moment”, adding: “We should be pleased he has closed Guantanamo and acknowledged the existence of the secret CIA prisons. But if he’s going to complete the change, he must see that rendition is part of the package. I have heard testimony from people who have clearly been tortured in Egypt and Jordan. To deposit people in those prisons still speaks volumes about American foreign policy.”
The “god like status” that Mr Moraes speaks of is highlighted by the response of Human Rights Watch, the global oversight organization. Despite vehemently opposing Bush-era secret detentions facilities and torture tactics HRW seemingly supports Obama’s decision to allow rendition to continue.
“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…”
Illegal kidnapping and imprisonment is abhorrent when George W. Bush is the cowboy commander in chief but if the new messiah says it’s OK then that’s just dandy huh?
So much for last month’s headlines that read Barack Obama’s new CIA boss signals end of waterboarding and rendition.
Of course, as evidenced recently by several researchers and journalists, Obama’s much lauded declaration to “ban” torture and his commitment to close down detention facilities are chocked full of loopholes and hidden clauses designed to allow such practices and premises to be continued.
As writer Tom Eley has pointed out, Obama’s orders leave torture, indefinite detention intact.
The orders signed by Obama do not undo the Bush administration’s attacks on constitutional and international law… They do not challenge the supposed right of the president to unilaterally imprison any individual, without trial and without charges, by declaring him to be an ‘enemy combatant… Nor do they end the procedure known as ‘extraordinary rendition…
They do not affect the hundreds of prisoners – 600 at the Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan alone — incarcerated beyond the barbed wire of Guantanamo…
On the question of so-called ‘harsh interrogation techniques,’ i.e., torture, Obama’s orders leave room for their continuation…
White House Counsel Gregory Craig told reporters the administration was prepared to take into account demands from the CIA that such methods be allowed…
Obama announced the creation of a task force that will consider new interrogation methods beyond those sanctioned by the Army Field Manual, which now accepts 19 forms of interrogation, as well as the practice of extraordinary rendition…
Furthermore, as reported by Brian Ross of ABC news, If Guantanamo is ever closed, the US government intends to will ship alleged terrorists caught up its international dragnet to other secret American-run prison camps.
If Obama were truly committed to ending the legacy of torture and secret detention, he would authorize the prosecution of those officials responsible, all the way up to the top. Instead, he has said he will do no such thing.
Perhaps the president has been taking advice from Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who last December said that the continuation of the CIA’s illegal practices “might be necessary”.
In the words of Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, Obama has set out a stall that indicates he is quite willing to take ownership of Bush’s war crimes by looking the other way on torture and rendition.
Of course, this is all part of the glorious CHANGE, that we were promised. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed hit the nail squarely on the head in his excellent article, Obama: Regime Rotation:
While around the world, Obama’s measures were interpreted as completely reversing the Bush administration policies of torture, extraordinary rendition and secret prisons – starting with the declaration of the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay – deeper inspection of the details of his Executive Orders suggests, unfortunately, that cries of joy are slightly premature.
Obama’s public disavowals of torture do not actually represent the end of the systemic practice of the CIA’s traditional interrogation techniques, conducted without public scrutiny for decades. Rather, they portend a sheepish return to secrecy – or in other words, a return to the obvious recognition that open declarations of covert US practices such as torture as official policy are detrimental, not conducive, to US hegemony.
The end result was a successful re-configuration of the public presentation of US military intelligence practices, coupled with nominal legal caveats permitting them to continue relatively unimpeded – essentially a giant PR exercise. Meanwhile, the vast post-9/11 domestic national security apparatus denying habeas corpus, undermining due process, and facilitating mass surveillance as well as intrusive social control powers brought in by the Bush administration was not repudiated, but retained.
No where else is the false left/right political paradigm more evident than here. The illegal and brutal practices of the secret U.S. intelligence apparatus date back decades, they did not arrive with George W. Bush and they will not depart with him.
These policies are part of a more overarching expansion of global empire, demanded by the establishment classes who continue to crave the wealth and power that the expansion of the military industrial complex provides.
It is for this purpose that the U.S. economy and its people are being churned up and used as fuel by the very same elite responsible for elevating Obama to the top of the political tree.
Obama recognises this and his actions have proven one of two things, either he is powerless to stop it or he has no intention of stopping it.
Can we still torture? Yes we can!
Can we still carry out extraordinary rendition? Yes we can!
This article was posted: Monday, February 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm