As a follow-up to Shannon’s post, this remarkable interview with Michael Scheuer.
Key fact: The “rendition” program originated with Clinton, not Bush.
Second key fact: The program worked.
Educated guess: Obama will not touch this program, and the news media will let it die out as an issue.
Exceprts from the interview below the fold.
ZEIT: Who invented the system of “extraordinary renditions”?
Scheuer: President Clinton, his security advisor Sandy Berger, and his terrorism advisor Richard Clarke tasked the CIA in Fall 1995 with destroying al-Qaida. We asked the President: what should we do with the people we’ve apprehended? Clinton: that’s your concern. The CIA objected: we aren’t prison guards. We were again told that we should solve the problem somehow. So we developed a procedure, and I was a member of this task force. We concentrated on al-Qaida members who were wanted in their home countries or who had been convicted there in absentia.
ZEIT: Didn’t you have concerns about torture in these countries?
Scheuer: No my job was to protect American citizens by taking Al-Qaida people off the street . . . This operation was 90% a huge success and only 10% a disaster.
ZEIT: Why did you take these people to their home countries instead of the the U.S.? Couldn’t you have kept these people more safely under lock and key?
Scheuer: It was always a case of violent crime. We had little doubt that these countries would not let anyone go. And we didn’t bring them to the U.S. because President Clinton didn’t want us to.
ZEIT: Why not?
Scheuer: Our leadership didn’t want to treat them like prisoners of war, but rather as criminals. At the same time they feared that it wouldn’t be possible to gather enough evidence to hold up in court.
1 thought on “The “Extraordinary Rendition” Program”
From my reading, covert detentions have been running mostly non-stop since WWII. The British began the practice early in WWII disappearing suspected Fascist and Communist agents into facilities in Canada. The U.S. allowed the British to kidnap suspected Fascist and Communist who were legal U.S. residents and take them to a secret facility in Ottawa. After WWII, a similar system was instituted by the U.S. to deal with suspected agents of Stalin and his successors. These detentions were always carried out overseas.
The Clinton administration was faced with increasing numbers in addition to non-state actors which really hadn’t been a consideration before. Previously, communist could simply be held until they became irrelevant. There was no concern that Soviet agents would blow up a market place or city bus. Terrorist poised a much different problem and still do.
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