Surprise! Obama expands renditions
posted at 9:12 am on February 1, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
For the last seven years, the Left has screeched hysterically over the CIA practice of rendition, in which agents turn detainees over to authorities in their home country for interrogation. Never mind that the practice started in the Clinton administration, and never mind that the other options were Guantanamo Bay, release, or two caps in the back of the head; they pilloried Bush over renditions as if he’d thought them up himself. Hollywood even made a movie about how awful the process is, apparently matched in awfulness only by the film’s box office.
Barack Obama exploited that outrage when he promised Hope and ChangeTM, and the Left squealed with joy over the Brave New Obama World in national security. Now they’ll have to squeal again as Obama has had a sudden revelation as President that renditions are more necessary than ever, if the CIA can’t hold these subjects at Gitmo or its own secret sites:
The CIA’s secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.
But even while dismantling these programs, President Obama left intact an equally controversial counter-terrorism tool.
Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, 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.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism — aside from Predator missile strikes — for taking suspected terrorists off the street.
Renditions created a huge global controversy primarily because the home countries of the terrorists torture for information. Most of these terror suspects grabbed by the CIA come from countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and other emirates where the Geneva Convention only provides a veneer of respectability and not legal constraints of any kind. Critics complained that the CIA essentially “outsourced” its torture to subcontractors in this rendition process, ensuring that these methods would get used without getting their own hands dirty and getting the information torture produced.
Unfortunately, though, the political jeremiads of the Left has given Obama little room to manuever. He has already ordered the CIA to close its holding sites for such suspects, at least for indeterminate-length detentions, which means any terrorists taken have to be moved somewhere else in a relatively tight time frame. The one place the US has for that purpose will close, thanks to the entirely hysterical political press to close Gitmo. The CIA by law cannot bring the suspects back to the US. That leaves release, rendition, or assassination as the only three options left to Obama after all of the political posturing of the campaign.
Frankly, I think the US does a better job of treating its detainees than anywhere a rendition program would deliver them, but without a Gitmo or CIA holding site, that’s the only way to ensure that we can get any intelligence that will protect the US. I’m not surprised that Obama has reached the same conclusion, now that he has the responsibility to keep the nation secure from foreign attack. It’s amazing how clarifying that responsibility can be, and Obama at least must have a little more comprehension of what Bush went through the last seven years.
Perhaps the Left will suddenly realize the same logic and give him a pass on this. Somehow, though, I think renditions may be a bridge too far for them, and I expect that Obama will take a pretty big hit from the hysterics in the next couple of days.
Update: Moe Lane notes the emergence of several new pro-torture bloggers, at least according to their own standards during the Bush administration.