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Barton Kunstler, Ph.D. Headshot

An Obama Rendition Scenario

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President Obama has recently ratified continuation of the U.S. rendition policy -- removal of terrorist suspects by extra-legal means to a foreign country for interrogation. This was intended to allow prisoners to be tortured in many nations, Syria, Egypt, Latvia, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Pakistan, among them in a process facilitated by Great Britain, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, Indonesia, and others. However, Obama's is not the Bush/Cheney version of rendition. The President has assured us that interrogations will be monitored to guarantee that torture does not occur.

Amazingly, I have just received a recording spirited from the near-future of an interrogation conducted under the new kinder, gentler rules. Let's listen in. Unfortunately, only the interrogator's voice can be heard. Factual comments are in italics.

President Obama has closed our secret overseas prisons.
Welcome, Mr. Rajmani, to one of our nation's five star hotels. You can call me "Buzzsaw". As Hospitality Captain, I will be your host for the duration of your stay. Yes, I know you are an American citizen, but your FBI thought you could use a little vacation.

Rendition is open-ended, time-wise.
Oops, did I say little? Let me assure you, Mr. Rajmani, that you don't have to leave your room by any specific time. In fact, you can stay here as long as necessary...that is, as long as, well, let's just say you won't be leaving here soon.

Your wife and children? Don't worry. They know you're not home. Well, that may seem self-evident to you but if it is self-evident, what's the problem? Of course, they'll be expecting you, but let me ask you this, Mr. Rajmani. If they knew you were staying in such a lovely facility, would they not be glad for you? I am sure you will return to them. Maybe not in one piece...haha...just joking!

Now, Mr. Rajmani, we simply are going to ask you a few questions. Over and over and over again, true, but just a few questions.

Obama administration guidelines against torture do not necessarily cover "detainees"; nor do they rule out discomforting practices not considered to be torture.
Torture! Mr. Rajmani! How can you say that!? This is not the Bush/Cheney rendition. This is Obama rendition. We do not torture.

The Obama regulations do assure us that suspects will not be sent to nations that condone torture.
You are absolutely right, Mr. Rajmani. You can no longer be renditioned to a nation that does condones torture. There is a problem, though. According to Amnesty International, over 150 of the world's countries have used torture so it's really tough to find one that doesn't. Besides, we don't condone torture. Who does? True, the new guidelines do allow unpleasant techniques, but you have my word we will never cross that thin line separating mild pain from torture. In fact, I am changing my nickname from "Buzzsaw" to "Arm-Twister"!

According to the Obama regulations, interrogations will be monitored to make sure the suspect is not being tortured.
Who is this burly man standing next to me? Call him "Jeff". And no, Mr. Rajmani, Jeff is not glaring at you. He will be your first interrogator but he will be constantly monitored to make sure he doesn't torture you. Right Jeff? Jeff...Jeff...back off Jeff! You'll have your turn! Jeff must be hungry. I'll feed him before he questions you.

Most "suspects" in overseas detention, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and the U.S. have had only tenuous connections to any terrorist group, if any. Some of the most highly publicized cases were later shown to be without merit.

Of course you don't know anything, Mr. Rajmani! No renditioned prisoner ever knows anything. You do have an uncle in Karachi who has been visiting the Swat Valley, correct? Of course you do! You see, we do not operate at random! What's that? He's a doctor? He's treating villagers wounded from the fighting? Hmm. And don't you think some of those villagers might be al Qaeda or Taliban sympathizers? And that your uncle, this Dr. Rajmani, may be giving comfort to terrorists? And didn't you send him money for "supplies" last month? You may indeed have important information for us, Mr. Rajmani, you just don't know it.

Safety from arbitrary government seizure has been protected by habeas corpus since the Magna Carta of 1215. Rendition ignores habeas corpus. Also, under the Obama rules, American overseers will see that rendition suspects are not tortured - but our influence in foreign jails is admittedly limited.

Who is that man standing in the shadows in suit and sunglasses? His shoes are rather pedestrian, though. You see, I make joke! Let's just call him, Habeas Corpus - NOT! Ha ha, Mr. Rajmani, is that not another LOL moment!? He's your American friend and will be attending to your health and well-being. And with a pool in our health spa.... The pool? For waterboarding? How could you think such a thing? Read my lips: no water-boarding.

President Obama did order all secret prisons closed - but not detention centers. A 2006 Red Cross report noted that some American doctors did assist CIA torture sessions.
Mr. Rajmani, please. This is not a secret prison. True, the CIA still has its "detention centers" but those aren't the same as prisons. Look at this lovely hotel room! Hardly a prison! And the President has stated that rendition will continue, so it's not secret either! Your own private CIA doctor will refresh you whenever an outside inspector comes to visit, so you won't be embarrassed if you're looking a bit drawn - and quartered! Aha, just joking again!

We must wonder why President Obama insists on retaining retention. If torture is forbidden, can't we interrogate suspects in our own country? A former interrogator, contrary to Dick Cheney, has just publicly stated that torturing suspects yielded no useful information.
Play charades? What a strange request. I don't know, ask Jeff. Oh, why are we going through this charade? I see. Well, you may call it a charade but look at it this way, Mr. Rajmani. Putting together a good rendition program takes a lot of resources. Your country is not about to dismantle it just because a few jelly-kneed liberals complain that it's unconstitutional. Rendition may turn out to be the first step to outsourcing American prisoners all over the world. Your own jails are overflowing with over one percent of your adult population. Rendition is actually a favor to those men and women stuck inside of Immobile with the Memphis blues again. Laugh out loud, Mr. Rajmani. Please, I must insist that you laugh at my jokes. You know the drill. Hmm, speaking of drills, Jeff, how is our supply holding up?