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Tilting at Windmills

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January 23, 2009
By: Hilzoy

No More Extraordinary Rendition

In comments at Obsidian Wings, CharlesS notes a section of one of Obama's executive orders that I somehow missed. (I sort of zoned out once it started in on the composition of committees; this was clearly a mistake.) This order establishes a Special Interagency Task Force one of whose missions is:

"(ii) 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."

That means no more extraordinary rendition. No more shipping people off to countries with horrific human rights records to be tortured. No more pretending that when, say, the Egyptian or Syrian intelligence services tell us that they really, truly won't torture anyone we send them, we actually believe them. On this point, Obama is not only rolling back Bush's excesses, but Clinton's.

This is really, really, really wonderful.

Hilzoy 1:46 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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Comments

No, it doesn't mean that.

It means that that is POSSIBLE and nothing more.

Just like the loopholes that got missed in the first Hilzoy post about Obama's executive orders.

Per the loopholes in these executive orders, six months from now, Obama could:
• Let the CIA go back to “enhanced interrogation techniques”;
• Decide to continue rendering alleged terrorists to Jordan, Egypt, etc.;
• Establish a new set of military commissions, with either a lot, or a little, changed from the 2006 Military Commissions Act baseline, and therefore still not afford Geneva protections, or fully adversarial legal defense rights, to so-called Global War on Terror detainees.

It's no wonder that folks like Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, have concerns.

There. THAT is the correct understanding about Obama's executive orders.

No charge.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 23, 2009 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. Thus far, actual adherence to Constitutional standards doesn't seem anywhere near anything Obama might be interested in. This is all kabuki and loopholes, designed to fool readers of left wing blogs into thinking he might actually, oh, close Guantanamo or outlaw torture or change policies on governmental secrecy. It's all bullshit!

He's just going to fake it on his first day, and string us all along for the next four years.

There. THAT is how silly your snippy, supercilious crap sounds, even if you happen to be correct.

And people who actually call THEMSELVES 'gadflies' are a little full of themselves.

Posted by: mercury on January 23, 2009 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Mercury, I am correct. As is Michael Ratner.

(And, I do make contributions to the CCR, too.)

Congrats on learning to spell supercilious, too. Practice by reflecting on your own personality?

No, B.O. isn't stringing us along for four years. He IS kicking the can down the road six months, though, while resorting to the time-dishonored DC tradition of naming a think tank, commission, or similar entity.

You'll be back in your Obamiac sugar/Kumbaya-induced coma by that time, which is part of what he may be counting on.

As for calling myself a gadfly? Socrates called himself one, too; didn't wait for an outsider to put the tag on. So, you're saying the same about him?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 23, 2009 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

Sophomoric Horsefly, as a fellow Leftist (actually I guess I'm further left than you since you're a Green and I'm a Socialist) you are engaging in speculative bullshit.

Obama could also declare marshal law and impose himself as Grand Dictator for Life. And the likelihood of that happening is about the same as the bullshit paranoia you are trying to pedal.

If you want to actually influence people it helps to praise the good they do and constructively criticize the bad. For you, it seems, the only reflex you have is a knee jerk tendency to carp and quibble over every action Obama's taken.

Can you leave the pettifoggery to the Republicans? What good can Obama do if he's under a constant hail of criticism from the Right AND the Left? And do you also realize it's only been three days since he's got the job?

Sit down and shut the hell up until he ACTUALLY screws the pooch, o.k.?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 23, 2009 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

I imagine that certain Naderist and Paulbot fringe-folk---those who, thankfully, make Socialism seem mainstream---will, as it is in full, to-be-expected accordance with their politically-gadflyish nature, seek to make each and every act of the current President to be a conspiracy of tinfoil-hat proportions against every imaginable Law, Policy, Opinion, Preference, and Peanut-Butter Sandwich on the face of the Earth---including the vast hordes of Peanut-Butter Sandwiches that are completely Salmonella-free.

On a more serious note, this specific EO opens an entirely-new can of worms for the Republikanner Beast. Consider the following excerpt:

...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."

Contemplate the meaning of this. If sufficient evidence surfaces that it was the intent of the Bush administration and its enablers to have renditioned prisoners tortured by sending them to countries that are known to torture, then those that were involved---right up to and including Cheney and Bush themselves---are equally guilty of torture.

Posted by: Steve W. on January 23, 2009 at 4:38 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Steve W, when a British ambassador to Uzbekistan declares his horrified reaction at realizing that the Coalition is dumping subjects with regimes that happily will boil people under interrogation -- I don't think we're talking "could have beens."

Craig Murray was hounded out of the Foreign Office for revealing what happened.
http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/09/ive_seen_the_bl.html

http://www.hifisentralen.no/forum/index.php?topic=18924.1000

Posted by: SteinL on January 23, 2009 at 6:51 AM | PERMALINK

Have no idea how the second link got into that post, ignore it.

Posted by: SteinL on January 23, 2009 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not clear, is the New York times for or against torture, for or against keeping Gitmo open? So, stopping torture and prison camps is going to be messy, who knew? And so what.

Posted by: Scott F. on January 23, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

That means no more extraordinary rendition.

Huh??? You’re can’t be serious? They are going to STUDY the practice of rendition. Translation: appear to be doing something without actually doing it.

Posted by: pluege on January 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Look: it's n executive order. What is done by executive order can be undone by executive order. So yes, this does leave open the possibility that Obama will reverse it tomorrow and declare that on his understanding of the law, he could transfer the entire prison population of the US to Uzbekistan.

On the other hand, if he had decided to wait for Congress to enact a statute (which, in principle, he could still decide to disregard until forced to attend to it), people might say: oooh, he isn't doing anything; he's mouthing these platitudes about Congress, the importance of the legislative branch, etc., in order to defer action indefinitely.

pluege: "They are going to STUDY the practice of rendition. Translation: appear to be doing something without actually doing it."

No: they are going to study "the practices of transferring individuals to other nations". This is something we do in a lot of contexts: extradition, for instance, or deporting illegal immigrants. The problem is when we transfer detainees to other countries where they will be tortured. And the point of the study is: to ensure that this does not happen.

Posted by: hilzoy on January 23, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that by punting this to the committee, this is weaker than if the top part of the order had included a reminder that the law already forbids extraordinary rendition, and that the executive branch needs to follow the law, but it is worth noting that the committee is tasked with rooting out policies that are being used for extraordinary rendition, not with deciding whether or not extraordinary rendition is acceptable.

Posted by: Charles S on January 23, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

And the point of the study is: to ensure that this does not happen.

please. Things are "studied" when you have no intention of acting on them. But regardless, think about it, what is there to "study" about "extradition" to nations that torture - what exactly is there to think about or know? If you don't believe in torture, you don't send someone to a nation that does - period. No study necessary. From the other vantage, why would you ever send anyone to another nation to get information unless that other nation did something that was illegal in your nation - otherwise there is no need to send them there.

Let's not be naive, the only purpose of conducting the study is to allow people to falsely jump to the conclusion in their minds that the practice has ended.

Posted by: pluege on January 23, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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