Your President, yesterday.
THE PRESIDENT: The post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. That was the charge we have been given. And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won’t be tortured. That’s the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture. We do believe in protecting ourselves. We don’t believe in torture.
Meanwhile, in the real world.
To comply with anti-torture laws that bar sending people to countries where they are likely to be tortured, the CIA’s office of general counsel requires a verbal assurance from each nation that detainees will be treated humanely, according to several recently retired CIA officials familiar with such transfers, known as renditions.
But the effectiveness of the assurances and the legality of the rendition practice are increasingly being questioned by rights groups and others, as freed detainees have alleged that they were mistreated by interrogators after the CIA secretly delivered them to countries with well-documented records of abuse.
One CIA officer involved with renditions, however, called the assurances from other countries “a farce.”
Another U.S. government official who visited several foreign prisons where suspects were rendered by the CIA after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said: “It’s beyond that. It’s widely understood that interrogation practices that would be illegal in the U.S. are being used.”
The CIA inspector general recently launched a review of the rendition system, and some members of Congress are demanding a thorough probe. Canada, Sweden, Germany and Italy have started investigations into the participation of their security services in CIA renditions.
The House voted 420 to 2 yesterday to prohibit the use of supplemental appropriations to support actions that contravene anti-torture statutes. The measure’s co-author, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), singled out renditions, saying “diplomatic assurances not to torture are not credible, and the administration knows it.”
After the 2001 attacks, Bush broadened the CIA’s authority and, as a result, the agency has rendered more than 100 people from one country to another without legal proceedings and without providing access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, a right afforded all prisoners held by the U.S. military.
The U.S. official who visited foreign detention sites said the issue “goes far beyond” the assurance: “They say they are not abusing them, and that satisfies the legal requirement, but we all know they do.”
[An] Arab diplomat, whose country is actively engaged in counterterrorism operations and shares intelligence with the CIA, said it is unrealistic to believe the CIA really wants to follow up on the assurances. “It would be stupid to keep track of them because then you would know what’s going on,” he said. “It’s really more like ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ “