Tuesday, March 08, 2005


By William Fisher

My nomination for the three most outrageous statements of the ‘war on terror’:

President Bush: "Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture" (January 2005).

Former CIA official Michael Scheuer, the ‘anonymous’ author of “Imperial Hubris” who was the head of the agency’s “Bin Laden Unit”: About the practice of ‘extreme rendition, “The idea that we're gonna suddenly throw our hands up like Claude Raines in 'Casablanca' and say, 'I'm shocked that justice in Egypt isn't like it is in Milwaukee,' there's a certain disingenuousness to that…(rendition is) “convenient in the sense that it allows American policy makers and American politicians to avoid making hard decisions…Yes. It's very convenient. It's finding someone else to do your dirty work" (CBS News, 60 Minutes, March 6, 2005).

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: U.S. policy is not to send detainees "to countries where we believe or we know that they're going to be tortured." If a country has a history of torture, Washington seeks additional assurances that it will not be used against the transferred detainee. But the government "can't fully control" what other nations do. He does not know whether countries have always complied with their promises (Washington Post, March 8, 2005).

The ‘dirty work’ Scheuer refers to is the practice of ‘extreme rendition’, or ‘outsourcing torture’, in which U.S. counter-terrorism agencies kidnap terror suspects and take them to jails in countries that torture prisoners.

We know they torture prisoners because there is a growing body of first-hand testimony from detainees who were tortured. And because our own State Department identifies those countries in its annual Human Rights Report. They include Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and others – all are destinations for the ‘AIR CIA’ service that transports them.

The rendition program started during the Clinton Administration and Michael Scheuer was one of its founders. For years, it was known by Washington reporters who never wrote about it. It was ultra-top-secret.

But if was so secret, how come there has been an avalanche of newspaper, magazine and television reporting about it lately? There are three reasons: First, Abu Ghraib focused the world’s attention on prisoner torture. Second, CIA operatives began to worry that they might be personally prosecuted for breaking U.S. law, and have been scared enough to leak the rendition story to the media so they could hide behind the ‘I was just following orders’ defense. Third, a small but growing number of journalists have persisted in digging deeper, resulting in chilling accounts of things our government doesn’t want us to know.

But how about the President? Is it possible that everyone forgot to tell him? Wow! Isn’t he the commander-in-chief? Doesn’t he give the orders?

Think about it. You’d have to be living in cloud cuckooland to buy the ‘I didn’t know’ story.