Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bill Clinton’s rendition to torture

Rendition is the practice of turning terrorist suspects over to countries, such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where they can be tortured. We are not talking about enhanced interrogation techniques with well-defined limits that might cross a fine line and be considered torture; we are talking about real, no-limits, brutal torture. By using rendition, the U.S. can have suspects tortured without having to worry about violating Constitutional due process.

Many people find this practice abhorrent. So do I. The U.S. should not be in the business of shipping people off to where torture is practiced. President George W. Bush has been criticized for allowing rendition. But, where were the Bush critics of rendition when it started? President Clinton began the practice, during peacetime. A February 2005, New Yorker article, Out Sourcing Torture, confirms this:

Not long ago, [former CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael] Scheuer, who lives in northern Virginia, spoke openly for the first time about how he and several other top C.I.A. officials set up the program [rendition], in the mid-nineties. “It was begun in desperation, ” he 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. [full article]

Liberals activist organizations are pressuring the Obama administration and Congress to investigate the Bush administrations use of torture and other aspects of the War on Terror. They would like nothing better than to indict Bush for war crimes. If Bush is guilty of war crimes; Clinton is guilty and Clinton’s war crimes occurred in a time of peace. If we are going to start investigating America’s past sins, don’t stop at Bush.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories


  1. I think you know the answer to your own questions on this one.

  2. Surely you are mistaken, or at least misinformed, on this one. For the Democrats are ALL about civil rights.

  3. All renditions are not equal. The Renditions program used by Clinton was actually instituted by Bush 41, while Bush 43 used Extraodinary Renditions. Here is what an expert on the subject (Scott Horton) had to say. This is another instance of the media not doing it's homework and letting important details slide.

    "There are two fundamental distinctions between the programs. The extraordinary renditions program involved the operation of long-term detention facilities either by the CIA or by a cooperating host government together with the CIA, in which prisoners were held outside of the criminal justice system and otherwise unaccountable under law for extended periods of time. A central feature of this program was rendition to torture, namely that the prisoner was turned over to cooperating foreign governments with the full understanding that those governments would apply techniques that even the Bush Administration considers to be torture. This practice is a felony under current U.S. law, but was made a centerpiece of Bush counterterrorism policy.

    The earlier renditions program regularly involved snatching and removing targets for purposes of bringing them to justice by delivering them to a criminal justice system. It did not involve the operation of long-term detention facilities and it did not involve torture. There are legal and policy issues with the renditions program, but they are not in the same league as those surrounding extraordinary rendition. Moreover, Obama committed to shut down the extraordinary renditions program, and continuously made clear that this did not apply to the renditions program."

    Regards, Quackers

  4. It is true that the Clinton administration transferred terror suspects to Egypt, known then to conduct brutal interrogations. So it is somewhat fair to say that the George W. Bush administration built on foundations laid by his predecessors (Reagan and George H. W. Bush also had rendition policies).

    But isn't it also fair to say that George W. Bush may have overbuilt the rendition program? From the Jane Mayer article you link to...

    "Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, 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...”

    I think it's worth reading Mayer's entire article so people can come have an informed opinion about how the Bush and Clinton programs differed.

    Nevertheless, 'Disgruntled Republican' makes a valid point when he asserts that the Clinton-era program may have been the first to cross legal boundaries. Still, does that mean even more extreme behavior should be overlooked?

    I say follow the law and let the chips fall where they may. If acting authorities truly believe in the justness of what they did, they shouldn't have any problem with owning it.