Extraordinary rendition lawsuit also window into low point for American experiment September 4, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Abu Omar, alex pareene, cerebrus capital, cia prisons, computer sciences corp, dynacorp, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, red sox, rendition, rendition flights, roger hollander, terrorism, torture
add a comment
Sep 2, 2011 17:30 ET
A lawsuit between two aviation companies concerning a couple hundred thousand dollars in unpaid expenses has inadvertently led to the publicizing of a great deal of information about the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. (The program involved the illegal transport of thousands of terrorism suspects to secret CIA prisons in foreign nations and then to countries where suspects could be tortured. It is basically “kidnapping” followed by “torture” but the CIA did it so no one went to jail for it.)
The records from this lawsuit between two sub-contractors involved in the renditions will eventually be taught in an undergrad history course titled “America: Where It All Went Wrong.” Detainees were transported by the same companies that fly billionaires on private jets to their resort vacations. (The CIA doesn’t have an air force, so they relied on massive government contractor DynCorp, which… just rented some private planes.)
We learn that the CIA provided the flights with letters from a fictional State Department official (the State Department was almost certainly not involved in the rendition program) providing diplomatic cover.
We learn that one the planes used to transport a suspect (Abu Omar, captured in Italy and tortured in Egypt) was owned by the co-owner of the Boston Red Sox. The plane sported a Red Sox logo on the tail. I mean a Yankees plane might’ve been more poetically apt but either way it seems like such a pat symbol of America’s behavior in the wretched first decade of the 21st century that I’d roll my eyes at it if it turned up in a piece of fiction. An executive’s private plane, sporting the logo of a rich baseball team and carrying an Imam captured overseas by the CIA, touches down in Egypt, a nation led by an American-backed strongman, where the Imam is to be tortured. What preachy liberal hack dreamed up that one? (The executive also owns part of Liverpool FC, because we can’t forget Great Britain’s help in all this.)
Then the hedge funds took an interest in privatized torture:
DynCorp was purchased in 2003 by Computer Sciences Corp., another leading federal contractor, in a $940 million merger. Computer Sciences Corp. then took on a supervising role in the rendition flights through 2006, according to invoices and emails in the court files. CSC sold three DynCorp units in 2005 to Veritas Capital Fund, a private equity firm, for $850 million, but retained ownership of other parts of the old company. Veritas in turn sold the restructured DynCorp — now known as DynCorp International — for about $1 billion in 2010 to Cerebrus Capital Management, another private equity fund.
So at least a couple rich people got even richer off of our national shame. There’s an upside to everything.
- Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene
A Call to End All Renditions February 11, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Omar, aclu, Afghanistan, Al Gore, Alberto Gonzales, binyam homamed, boeing, bush administration, cairo, canadian detainee, clinton administration, Cuba, eric holder, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, human rights, illegal surveillance, International law, janet mayer, jeppesen dataplan, leon panetta, luis posada, mahar arar, marjorie cohn, morocco, new yorker, nsc, obama administration, rendition, rendtion flights, richard clarke, roger hollander, secret cia camps, security council, state secrets, Syria, torture, torture flights, War Crimes
add a comment
Mohamed and four other plaintiffs are accusing Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. of flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured. In Mohamed’s case, two British justices accused the Bush administration of pressuring the British government to block the release of evidence that was “relevant to allegations of torture” of Mohamed.
Twenty-five lines edited out of the court documents included details about how Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel as well as other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding “is very far down the list of things they did,” according to a British official quoted by the Telegraph (UK).
The plaintiffs’ complaint quotes a former Jeppesen employee as saying, “We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights – you know, the torture flights.” A senior company official also apparently admitted the company transported people to countries where they would be tortured.
Obama’s Justice Department appeared before a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday in the Jeppesen lawsuit. But instead of making a clean break with the dark policies of the Bush years, the Obama administration claimed the same “state secrets” privilege that Bush used to block inquiry into his policies of torture and illegal surveillance. Claiming that the extraordinary rendition program is a state secret is disingenuous since it is has been extensively documented in the media.
“This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course,” said the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, counsel for the five men.
If the judges accept Obama’s state secrets claim, these men will be denied their day in court and precluded from any recovery for the damages they suffered as a result of extraordinary rendition.
Two and a half weeks before Obama’s representative appeared in the Jeppesen case, the new President had signed Executive Order 13491. It established a special task force “to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control.”
This order prohibits extraordinary rendition. It also ensures humane treatment of persons in U.S. custody or control. But it doesn’t specifically guarantee that prisoners the United States renders to other countries will be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that doesn’t amount to torture. It does, however, aim to ensure that our government’s practices of transferring people to other countries complies with U.S. laws and policies, including our obligations under international law.
One of those laws is the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the United States ratified in 1992. Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibits the States Parties from subjecting persons “to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” The UN Human Rights Committee, which is the body that monitors the ICCPR, has interpreted that prohibition to forbid States Parties from exposing “individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement.”
Order 13491 also mandates, “The CIA shall close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and shall not operate any such detention facility in the future.” The order does not define “expeditiously” and the definitional section of the order says that the terms ‘detention facilities’ and ‘detention facility’ “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.” Once again, “short term” and “transitory” are not defined.
In his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder categorically stated that the United States should not turn over an individual to a country where we have reason to believe he will be tortured. Leon Panetta, nominee for CIA director, went further last week and interpreted Order 13491 as forbidding “that kind of extraordinary rendition, where we send someone for the purposes of torture or for actions by another country that violate our human values.”
But alarmingly, Panetta appeared to champion the same standard used by the Bush administration, which reportedly engaged in extraordinary rendition 100 to 150 times as of March 2005. After September 11, 2001, President Bush issued a classified directive that expanded the CIA’s authority to render terrorist suspects to other States. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the CIA and the State Department received assurances that prisoners will be treated humanely. “I will seek the same kinds of assurances that they will not be treated inhumanely,” Panetta told the senators.
Gonzales had admitted, however, “We can’t fully control what that country might do. We obviously expect a country to whom we have rendered a detainee to comply with their representations to us . . . If you’re asking me, ‘Does a country always comply?’ I don’t have an answer to that.”
The answer is no. Binyam Mohamed’s case is apparently the tip of the iceberg. Maher Arar, a Canadian born in Syria, was apprehended by U.S. authorities in New York on September 26, 2002, and transported to Syria, where he was brutally tortured for months. Arar used an Arabic expression to describe the pain he experienced: “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.” The Canadian government later exonerated Arar of any terrorist ties. In another instance, thirteen CIA operatives were arrested in Italy for kidnapping an Egyptian, Abu Omar, in Milan and transporting him to Cairo where he was tortured.
Panetta made clear that the CIA will continue to engage in rendition to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects and transfer them to other countries. “If we capture a high-value prisoner,” he said, “I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily to be able to debrief that individual and make sure that individual is properly incarcerated.” No clarification of how long is “temporarily” or what “debrief” would mean.
When Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) asked about the Clinton administration’s use of the CIA to transfer prisoners to countries where they were later executed, Panetta replied, “I think that is an appropriate use of rendition.” Jane Mayer, columnist for the New Yorker, has documented numerous instances of extraordinary rendition during the Clinton administration, including cases in which suspects were executed in the country to which the United States had rendered them. Once when Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, “proposed a snatch,” Vice-President Al Gore said, “That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”
There is a slippery slope between ordinary rendition and extraordinary rendition. “Rendition has to end,” Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, recently told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!: “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence.” Ratner queried whether Cuba could enter the United States and take Luis Posada, the man responsible for blowing up a commercial Cuban airline in 1976 and killing 73 people. Or whether the United States could go down to Cuba and kidnap Assata Shakur, who escaped a murder charge in New Jersey.
Moreover, “renditions for the most part weren’t very productive,” a former CIA official told the Los Angeles Times. After a prisoner was turned over to authorities in Egypt, Jordan or another country, the CIA had very little influence over how prisoners were treated and whether they were ultimately released.
The U.S. government should disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001. Those who ordered renditions should be prosecuted. And the special task force should recommend, and Obama should agree to, an end to all renditions.
Obama Preserves Renditions as Counter-Terrorism Tool February 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Abu Omar, al-Qaeda, cia, counter terrorism, disappearance, egypt renditions, European Parliament, extraordinary rendition, geneva conventions, greg miller, human rights, intelligence gathering, International law, international treaties, interrogations, Khaled Masri, prisoner transfer, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, rendition, rendition flights, rendition italy, roger hollander, secret abductions, torture
add a comment
Former detainee Khaled El-Masri sued the CIA. El-Masri said he was “unlawfully abducted, detained and abused by the CIA under its rendition program.” (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
01 February 2009, www.truthout.org
by: Greg Miller, The Los Angeles Times
The role of the CIA’s controversial prisoner-transfer program may expand, intelligence experts say.
Washington – 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.
The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.
The European Parliament condemned renditions as “an illegal instrument used by the United States.” Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a Boeing Co. subsidiary accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.
But 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.
The decision underscores the fact that the battle with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is far from over and that even if the United States is shutting down the prisons, it is not done taking prisoners.
”Obviously you need to preserve some tools – you still have to go after the bad guys,” said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the legal reasoning. “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.”
One provision in one of Obamaâ€™s orders appears to preserve the CIA’s ability to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects as long as they are not held long-term. The little-noticed provision states that the instructions to close the CIA’s secret prison sites “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.”
Despite concern about rendition, Obama’s prohibition of many other counter-terrorism tools could prompt intelligence officers to resort more frequently to the “transitory” technique.
The decision to preserve the program did not draw major protests, even among human rights groups. Leaders of such organizations attribute that to a sense that nations need certain tools to combat terrorism.
”Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “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 – but that designing that system is going to take some time.”
Malinowski said he had urged the Obama administration to stipulate that prisoners could be transferred only to countries where they would be guaranteed a public hearing in an official court. “Producing a prisoner before a real court is a key safeguard against torture, abuse and disappearance,” Malinowski said.
CIA veterans involved in renditions characterized the program as important but of limited intelligence-gathering use. It is used mainly for terrorism suspects not considered valuable enough for the CIA to keep, they said.
”The reason we did interrogations [ourselves] is because renditions for the most part weren’t very productive,” said a former senior CIA official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
The most valuable intelligence on Al Qaeda came from prisoners who were in CIA custody and questioned by agency experts, the official said. Once prisoners were turned over to Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere, the agency had limited influence over how much intelligence was shared, how prisoners were treated and whether they were later released.
”In some ways, [rendition] is the worst option,” the former official said. “If they are in U.S. hands, you have a lot of checks and balances, medics and lawyers. Once you turn them over to another service, you lose control.”
In his executive order on lawful interrogations, Obama created a task force to reexamine renditions to make sure that they “do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture,” or otherwise circumvent human rights laws and treaties.
The CIA has long maintained that it does not turn prisoners over to other countries without first obtaining assurances that the detainees will not be mistreated.
In a 2007 speech, https:// http://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2007/general-haydens-remarks-at-the-council-on-foreign-relations.html “> http://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2007/general-haydens-remarks-at-the-council-on-foreign-relations.html the agency had to make a determination in every case “that it is less, rather than more, likely that the individual will be tortured.” He added that the CIA sought “true assurances” and that “we’re not looking to shave this 49-51.”
Even so, the rendition program became a target of fierce criticism during the Bush administration as a series of cases surfaced.
In one of the most notorious instances, a German citizen named Khaled Masri was arrested in Macedonia in 2003 and whisked away by the CIA to a secret prison in Afghanistan. He was quietly released in Albania five months later after the agency determined it had mistaken Masri for an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Masri later described being abducted by “seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks.” He said he was stripped of his clothes, placed in a diaper and blindfolded before being taken aboard a plane in shackles – an account that matches other descriptions of prisoners captured in the rendition program.
In another prominent case, an Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was abducted in Italy in 2003 and secretly flown to an Egyptian jail, where he said he was tortured. The incident became a major source of embarrassment to the CIA when Italian authorities, using cellphone records, identified agency operatives involved in the abduction and sought to prosecute them.
Defenders of the rendition program point out that it has been an effective tool since the early 1990s and was often used to bring terrorism suspects to courts in the United States. Among them was Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was captured in Pakistan and was convicted of helping orchestrate the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Because details on the rendition program are classified, the scale of the program has been a subject of wide-ranging speculation.
An exhaustive investigation by the European Union concluded that the CIA had operated more than 1,200 flights in European airspace after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The implication was that most were rendition-related, with some taking suspects to states where they faced torture.
But U.S. intelligence officials contend that the EU report greatly exaggerated the scale of the program and that most of the flights documented by the Europeans involved moving supplies and CIA personnel, not prisoners.
Instead, recent comments by Hayden suggest that the program has been used to move no more than a handful of prisoners in recent years and that the total is in the “midrange two figures” since the Sept. 11 attacks.