The LA Times reports that Obama will be preserving rendition as an anti-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.

Recently there's been a concerted effort to blur the distinctions between what the Obama administration is doing and what the Bush administration did. Last week the Washington Times used the same provision in Obama's executive order to say that Obama wasn't actually shutting down the Bush-era "black sites" after all, because he was keeping some on a "transitory" basis. But of course the point of the "black sites" was to hold people indefinitely, without trial, beyond the reach of law, so by definition any "transitory site" in compliance with Obama's executive order wouldn't be a "black site" as we came to understand their use in the previous administration.

In the LA Times article, there's a blurring of the Bush administration's practice of deliberately turning suspects over to countries where we know they will be tortured, and any form of rendition, including those in which we are turning over terror suspects to other countries for trial. Hilzoy notes that the Obama order requires all "officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government" be in compliance with, among other things, the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits countries from turning suspects over to states where there "are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

I get the impression that these articles are spurred on by people who are attempting to salvage the Bush administration's reputation, by presenting their violations of the law as so necessary to preserve our safety that the new administration has no choice but to preserve them.The definitions of Bush-era "black sites" and "extraordinary rendition" are rewritten so that these things are not seen as abhorrent. But both articles basically ignore parts of the executive order that prohibit the very policies they claim are being retained.

-- A. Serwer

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