Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Comment:Extraordinary Rendition-Is there an ethical case?

With Hollywood giving its ‘verdict’ on the ‘War on Terror’ I thought it might be high time to take a closure look at ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ and canvas opinion on what libertarian and centre right thinking is.

In fact the practice of Extraordinary Rendition is nothing new. The British Government often carried out kidnappings in the Republic of Ireland against key IRA personnel who had escaped legal rendition. The US first documented usage was against the hijackers of the Achille Lauro in 1985, with a US Navy jet forcing down a flight to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella and then rendered the hijackers to the United States. Other states that have also used this power are: China, South Korea, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, France, Israel and a number of Middle Eastern and African countries.

Many countries have also benefited from the intelligence that has been gained from the interrogation of prisoners that have been captured under extra judicial kidnappings including the EU and its institutions (the main Governmental critics of the US use of ER.)

What is often forgotten is that the Clinton Administration first brought in the law as this rather revealing piece by Richard Clark, counter-terrorism czar in the Clinton and Bush Administrations shows:

“‘Extraordinary renditions’ were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government…. The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'”

Richard Clarke, Enemies pp143–4

One can’t help thinking that this is the same Al Gore that has just got a Nobel Peace Prize.

Since 9/11 The Bush administration has increased its usage and allowed prisoners to be removed to black sites-covert sites where it is alleged torture is used to extract information.

The arguments FOR the use of Extraordinary Rendition are powerful:

The country where a suspect is held might be linked to the terrorist group and beyond the ‘normal’ reach of legal and diplomatic channels. For example capturing wanted war criminals in Serbia, Bosnia or Croatia
It may well be an advantage to interrogate a prisoner in his own country of origin where s/he would be familiar with the language, customs and a tradition of that country for example Al Qaeda uses Middle Eastern operatives.
The intelligence gained would not only benefit the nation rendering the capture, but the domestic intelligence agency carrying out the interrogation and third parties.
The ‘ticking bomb’ scenario. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_arguments_regarding_torture
To prevent unnecessary press intrusion that may effect how a case is prosecuted

The arguments AGAINST are equally powerful:

There is no legal or ethical oversight
It may well damage the reputation and relationship between the parties
The action itself may be dangerous or can expose the country carrying out the action to unwanted press and media attention if it becomes a failed operation.
The intelligence gain may not reflect the cost and effort put into the operation
It is again ‘international’ agreements and laws

Rather than lay out an argument, here is a scenario in which we can ponder:

A ‘war criminal’ takes refuge in country X and is granted diplomatic protection and is considered a ‘rogue state’. Country Y wants to prosecute the individual for war crimes and Country Z wants information on intelligence on weapons shipments including chemical transfers and nuclear material that might be in the hands of terrorists. As leader of Country Z would you authorize the use of Rendition-especially if Country Y uses torture to extract information and confessions?

Unlike Pallywoods ‘cardboard cutout world’ these are real world problems. Do you have a duty to protect your country or do you remain ethical and uphold international law? Will people die at a later date because of your inaction? Will the press find out? Will it cause diplomatic problems? Will you loose the greater battle of ‘hearts and minds’?

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