Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Extraordinary Rendition

H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004," contains language that would authorize what is euphemistically called "extraordinary rendition." ("Extraordinary rendition"--a recently coined term not to be found in Black's Law Dictionary--refers to the practice of sending prisoners--suspected terrorists, in the current context--for questioning to countries such as Pakistan that can and do practice torture with impunity.)

Sec. 3032 of the proposed act, on the subject of "removal," requires the Secretary of Homeland Security "to revise the regulations prescribed by the Secretary to implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" in such a way that suspected terrorists are excluded from legal protections now existing in law. Furthermore, the Secretary's revision of the regulations "shall also ensure that the burden of proof is on the applicant for withholding or deferral of removal under the Convention to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured if removed to the proposed country of removal." In other words, suspects the United States seeks to deport to be questioned by other countries would have to prove that their removal would result in their being tortured. The section concludes with the proviso that "no court shall have jurisdiction to review the regulations adopted to implement this section." (Go here--and type in "H.R. 10"--to find the text of the bill.)

So there's no misunderstanding, this bill, if enacted in its present form, would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue regulations permitting suspected terrorists to be sent to other countries for torture. Such regulations would not be subject to judicial review, nor would they be constrained by U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture. Extraordinary rendition--outsourcing torture--would become the law of the land.

For additional information, see this press release from Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the sponsor of an amendment to remove the torture outsourcing provision from H.R. 10. If you need more to think about, read this column by Isabel Hilton in The Guardian (July 28, 2004) and ponder the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen caught up in the post-9/11 terrorist sweep.

Finally, consider calling or writing your Congressman to urge him or her to support Rep. Markey's efforts to prohibit the removal of suspects to countries that practice torture.

(Via Obsidian Wings through Kevin Drum's Political Animal.)