Monday Rendition Revisionism

December 15, 2008

gerecht125Yesterday’s New York Times brought us the opinion of Reuel Marc Gerecht (pictured) on the matter of “extraordinary rendition”of terrorist suspects…

Mr. Obama will soon face the same awful choices that confronted George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and he could well be forced to accept a central feature of their anti-terrorist methods: extraordinary rendition. If the choice is between non-deniable aggressive questioning conducted by Americans and deniable torturous interrogations by foreigners acting on behalf of the United States, it is almost certain that as president Mr. Obama will choose the latter.

Of course, he and his senior officials seem to believe now that they don’t have to make this choice. For them there is a better way to combat terrorism, by using physically non-coercive questioning of suspects and civilian courts or military courts-martial to try and punish jihadists.

But this third way, which is essentially where America was before the Clinton administration embraced rendition, is plausible only if Mr. Obama is lucky.

Gerecht repeated the same lie (or half-truth at the very least) twice that I’d better refute right now; as noted here…

Although the practice of “extraordinary rendition” did not originate under Bush, after Sept 11 “the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.”

And as Jane Mayer of The New Yorker tells us here…

“It was begun in desperation” (Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. counter-terrorism expert who began the process of rendition) told me. At the time, he was the head of the C.I.A.’s Islamic-militant unit, whose job was to “detect, disrupt, and dismantle” terrorist operations. His unit spent much of 1996 studying how Al Qaeda operated; by the next year, Scheuer said, its mission was to try to capture bin Laden and his associates. He recalled, “We went to the White House”—which was then occupied by the Clinton Administration—“and they said, ‘Do it.’ ” He added that Richard Clarke, who was in charge of counter-terrorism for the National Security Council, offered no advice. “He told me, ‘Figure it out by yourselves,’ ” Scheuer said. (Clarke did not respond to a request for comment.)

Here’s some more interesting fiction from Gerecht in his column, by the way…

…if we’d gotten our hands on a senior member of Al Qaeda before 9/11, and knew that an attack likely to kill thousands of Americans was imminent, wouldn’t waterboarding, or taking advantage of the skills of our Jordanian friends, have been the sensible, moral thing to do with a holy warrior who didn’t fear death but might have feared pain?

Ugh – as noted here…

A (2002) Senate report on intelligence failures before Sept. 11 has concluded that ignorance and ineptitude of F.B.I. supervisors and lawyers in Washington blocked field agents around the country from pursuing evidence that might have helped provide the bureau with what one of the authors of the report called a ”veritable blueprint for 9/11.”

The report by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to be made public next month and is the result of an investigation that began shortly after the terrorist attacks, focuses on the mishandling of the case against Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged with involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report suggests that while the Moussaoui case was particularly egregious, it may be indicative of the bureau’s bungling of other sensitive counterterrorism cases before Sept. 11.

By the way, Moussaoui pled guilty to conspiracy charges and is currently serving at a maximum security prison in Florence, CO.

And as noted here…

A group of 15 former U.S. interrogation and intelligence officers repudiated the use of torture as a way to extract information from detained terrorists in a statement of principles yesterday.

“Torture and other inhumane and abusive interview techniques are unlawful, ineffective and counterproductive,” said the document signed by each officer. “We reject them unconditionally.”

Of course, I don’t expect a typical neocon suspect like Gerecht (PNAC, AEI, The Weekly Standard, etc., etc.) to separate fact from fiction; as noted here, he asked (in response to the abuses at Abu Ghraib), “Have the chances of democracy in the Middle East really been set back because sexually sensitive Muslims are so revolted that they won’t embrace representative government?”

However, I DO expect the New York Times to know not to give a wingnut a platform from which he can spew his bilious garbage in the guise of informed editorial commentary.

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