Campaign For Liberty
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
About two years ago, candidate Obama, writing in Foreign Affairs, strongly criticized Bush’s practice of “extraordinary renditioning.” Under this policy, terror suspects were apprehended, transferred, sometimes through secret prisons and black cites, and handed over to foreign regimes like Egypt and Morocco. Sometimes this involved torture. Maher Arar, for example, was a Canadian citizen later determined to be innocent, captured in New York and sent to Syria where he was tortured in brutal ways. See this piece in the New Yorker chroniciling other such horror stories.
Obama’s criticism of renditioning, along with his general criticism of the Bush administration’s violations of habeas corpus, was one of his most serious indictments of the war on terrorism as managed by the Republicans.
Now the New York Times reports that “[t]he Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terror suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but will monitor their treatment to insure they are not tortured.”
How will they monitor such treatment? The administration “would give the State Department a larger role in assuring that transferred detainees would not be abused.” This is the State Department headed by Hillary Clinton — the same politician whom Ann Coulter had said she’d vote for over John McCain because Clinton was more pro-torture!
The Times goes on to report:
“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration practice of relying on diplomatic assurances, which have been proven completely ineffective in preventing torture,” said Amrit Singh of the American Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush.
She cited the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian sent in 2002 by the United States to Syria, which offered assurances against torture but beat Mr. Arar with electrical cable anyway.a new administrative interrogation unit, to be housed within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which will oversee the interrogations of top terror suspects using largely non-coercive techniques approved by the administration earlier this year.
Furthermore, the administration is creating “a new administrative interrogation unit, to be housed within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which will oversee the interrogations of top terror suspects using largely non-coercive techniques approved by the administration earlier this year.”
But can we trust these interrogations will be non-coercive? Can we trust they will be pinpointed against truly dangerous people? To see why not, let us consider the first suspect renditioned under Obama: Raymond Azar.
Azar is a Lebanese construction manager employed by Sima International, a contracting firm that works with the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan. Azar has never been accused of terrorism, but of fraud in violation of antitrust law! Allegedly, he had been aware of a crooked bribe taking place. For this, he claims he was subjected to horrible treatment. His lawyers have filed papers saying Azar was hooded, stripped naked and photographed, subjected to a body-cavity search, shown a photo of his wife and four children and told he’d never see them again if he didn’t confess, then driven to Bagram where he was shackled to a chair four seven hours, taken in an unheated metal shipping container during a cold storm with nothing but a thin blanket, and deprived of sleep. After all this, he broke down into a confession, which his lawyer now claims was illegitimate since it was tortured out of him.
Does this count as “non-coercive” interrogation? It does not seem much more humane than waterboarding and beatings, to me. And, furthermore, what kind of precedent is it to abuse and rendition a prisoner accused of nothing but being aware of fraud involved with a contracting deal with the military? If being dishonest in a government contract is a torturable offense — if people can be renditioned and deprived of light and sleep and subjected to threats against their family to force them to confess merely to knowing about an antitrust violation — then we have certainly gone down a horrific path concerning decency and the rule of law in the war on terrorism and foreign policy, and Obama appears not to be tempering that trend at all, but only accelerating it. Further, this shows the supreme threat that permanent war is to the very fabric of liberty. First they went after the “worst of the worst.” Now they’re using these brutal methods on alleged white-collar criminals. This is why the entire legal fabric of U.S. national security policy must be reformed in accordance with the Constitution, human decency, international law and habeas corpus.
This article was posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 9:59 am