They point out that if a suspected terrorist gets on a plane and gets off at a place like Copenhagen or Toronto and demands asylum, even if he is not granted asylum, he's pretty much got a safe haven to operate in because he can' be deported or extradited back to where ever he came from. They believe that such lenient 'European' laws create a huge gap in security, which need to be tightened and that human rights conventions such as the Convention Against Torture make it almost impossible for states to gain a reasonable and necessary degree of assurance against devastating attacks in an age of asymmetrical warfare against international terrorists.
Former U.S. officials such as Michael Scheuer, who helped to set up the CIA's rendition program during the Clinton administration, are more forthcoming about commenting on the nature and existence of 'extraordinary' renditions. Scheuer has in different statements and interviews to the media admitted that officials who authorized renditions were well aware that prisoners sent to countries such as Egypt would most likely be tortured (Grey 27 -- "Torture's Tipping Point"). He has further clarified that renditions were authorized by the U.S. National Security Council during the Clinton administration and officials in Congress, and "all of them understood what it meant to send suspects to those countries" (Pelley).
Other U.S. government officials admit that the extraordinary rendition program became much more potent after the 9/11 attacks on Trade Towers and Pentagon. Cofer Black, Director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Centre from 1999 until May 2002, in a statement before the 9/11 Commission has testified: "...After 9/11 the gloves come off... 'No Limits' aggressive, relentless, worldwide pursuit of any terrorist who threatens us is the only way to go..." (Quoted in "Below the Radar" -- Amnesty International Report). Another American intelligence agent quoted in the December 26, 2002, Washington Post says: "We don't kick the ***** out of them [terrorist suspects]. We send them to other countries so they can kick the ***** out of them." (Quoted by Gutierrez, 13)
The 'Down Side' of Extraordinary Rendition
Research by investigative journalists, eye witness accounts, and testimony by victims of rendition who have later been released have given us a fairly detailed picture of how a 'typical' extraordinary rendition operation is carried out. It starts with a sudden attack by half-dozen or so hooded security officials on a 'terror suspect' in an airport lobby, busy-street or an apartment building; after physically overwhelming the suspect, he is promptly drugged and sedated by a suppository forced up their rectum, handcuffed, mouth duct-taped, and their clothes cut off their bodies with scissors. The "detainee" is then swaddled in diapers, dressed in orange jumpsuits, blindfolded, placed in handcuffs and leg irons, and dumped into a special CIA jet, to be flown off to an undisclosed secret location. Once transported to a country such as Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Jordan, the suspect is subjected to brutal interrogation, beatings and torture, without any judicial oversight.
Mistakes are Common
Any 'program' that violates a basic tenet of a fair justice system, i.e., assumption of innocence before being proven guilty, is bound to be prone to mistakes whereby the innocent are victimized along with the guilty. When a process is carried out in secrecy and without any judicial oversight, the chances of such mistakes are multiplied.
It is no surprise, therefore, to find a number of mistakes made in the process of extraordinary rendition due to victims being selected on basis of faulty intelligence, the flimsiest of suspicions, or even mistaken identity. One such well-documented case is that of Khaled el-Masri, a 43-year-old German of Lebanese origin who was unlawfully detained on December 31, 2003 while on a trip to Macedonia. After his arrest and interrogation for 23 days by the Macedonian intelligence agencies, during which he was denied access to the German embassy or any other person, Masri was handed over to U.S. officials, presumably CIA agents. According to el-Masri's testimony given after his release, the hooded CIA agents subjected him to the full extraordinary rendition SOP: such as cutting off his clothes with scissors; drugging him via his anus; putting him in diapers, tracksuit, and a hood; and shackling him to the floor of a waiting aircraft. The plane flew him to the "Salt Pit" -- an abandoned brick factory in Kabul, which was run by U.S. agents as a prison. Masri says that he was detained for five months in a dark cell, beaten, half-starved, and interrogated repeatedly by U.S. agents; he went on hunger strike to protest against his treatment, and was force fed ("The Rendition of Khaled-el-Masri").
In May 2004, five months after his detention, el-Masri was released after the Americans realized that he had been mistakenly identified as a terrorist because an al-Qaeda terrorist had a similar name. The manner of his release (he was blindfolded and handcuffed and let out on a lonely road in Albania) and the subsequent treatment of his lawsuit by the U.S. courts (dismissal on the basis of national security) have received widespread condemnation from human right organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helped el-Masri to file lawsuit in a U.S. court against his illegal detention in December 2005; it was dismissed by a Federal Court on May 12, 2006 claiming the trial could jeopardize national security. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his appeal for hearing on October 9, 2007, without comment ("Supreme Disgrace" -- NYT Editorial, October 11, 2007).
Another prominent case of an innocent victim of 'rendition' is that of Maher Arar -- a Canadian citizen of Middle Eastern descent. He was seized at JFK airport in New York in 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was not only tortured but held for 10 months in a cell barely larger than a coffin. After his release, he would be cleared of any terrorist connections by an official Canadian inquiry (Grey, 26 -- "Torture's Tipping Point").
Ceding the High Moral Ground
The primary moral argument against the type of terrorism practiced by Al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations is their blatant disregard for the rules of warfare and their indescriminate targetting of civilian non-combatants. Brutal torture and beheading of prisoners by terrorists are condemned by even those who may otherwise sympathize with their 'cause.' By resorting to 'extraordinary rendition' of suspects, which is primarily done in order to subject the suspects to torture and brutal interrogation, the United States risks losing the high moral ground in its War Against Terror. For example, Uzbekistan, one of the destinations for rendered suspects, is known for boiling prisoners alive, and Syria -- another favorite destination for suspects apprehended by CIA, is infamous for using a device called "German chair" which is designed to twist a victim's spine (Grey -- "Our Dirty Little Torture Secret"). The rendition program that hands over people, who have not even been proven guilty yet, to such sadistic practices is a definite source of lowering America's image in the world as a benign superpower that fights on the side of justice and freedom. In a way, therefore, the U.S. policy extraordinary renditions serve to strengthen the hands of its enemies who seek to portray it as an aggressive bully and an unjust superpower without morals.
Dubious Intelligence-Gathering through Torture
Despite claims by the intelligence agencies that the information gathered from 'rendered' terror suspects helps to avert terrorist attacks and saves American lives, it is doubtful whether information gathered through torture can be relied upon. People subjected to torture often tell their tormentors what they want to hear. Consider the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the Libyan Al-Qaeda training camp commander who was captured in Pakistan after the invasion of Afghanistan by U.S. forces and collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001. He was rendered by the CIA to Egypt for interrogation where he was subjected to beatings with thick metal rods, electrocution of his genitals, and other torture. Libi told his interrogators what they wanted to hear, i.e., that Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship with al-Qaeda and Iraq had supplied chemical weapons and training to al-Qaeda. This coerced and false information was conveyed to the United States by the Egyptians, and was used by the U.S. administration to justify the invasion of Iraq. Hence, it is evident that information gathered through torture cannot be considered reliable, and can sometimes even lead to very serious consequences (Grey -- "Missing Presumed Tortured").
Effect on International Law
Extraordinary renditions are clearly violative of a number of international laws of which the United States is a signatory. The most significant among them is the "UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" (CAT) that was adopted for ratification by a General Assembly resolution on December 10, 1984 and came into force on June 26, 1987. Article 3.1 of the Convention states "No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another…