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What is Extraordinary Rendition?

Extraordinary rendition can include the abduction of a suspect in one country, without the country's consent, and moving him to another.
Suspects captured and put through extraordinary rendition are questioned, sometimes with the use of torture techniques, in a land with relatively lax human rights laws.
Several Al Qaeda senior leaders believed to be responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks were interrogated through legally questionable means.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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Extraordinary rendition is a practice of questionable legality which is practiced by several major Western nations, including the United States. It involves transporting suspects to foreign territory illegally, and is used specifically in the field of counter-terrorism. The practice has many outspoken critics, since it appears to clearly violate human rights along with international agreements on the treatment of prisoners. Proponents argue that extraordinary rendition is the only way to get time-sensitive and crucial information into the right hands.

Although many people associate extraordinary rendition with the United States' “War on Terrorism” which began after 2001, the practice had been well established by the mid-1990s. It was in fact authorized and developed thanks to an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton, who was undoubtedly aware of the murky legal ground that the United States government would tread as a result. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) appears to be the main orchestrator of extraordinary rendition.

There are a number of forms of this practice. In one instance, a suspect is picked up in a foreign country, essentially kidnapped extrajudicially without the agreement or consent of the host country. This is a clear violation of national sovereignty and legal extradition agreements. Once captured, the suspect is taken to another country, typically one with more lax human rights protections, for questioning. In several cases, this questioning has clearly included torture, which is not a legal, ethical, or sensible method for extracting information. In other cases, foreign nationals have been removed from American soil and secretly transported out of the country.

In addition to questioning people under questionable circumstances, extraordinary rendition also appears to be linked to secret detainment facilities as well. The Washington Post detailed the existence of these so-called “black sites” in 2005, in an article which also discussed the techniques used to move detainees from nation to nation without detection. The New Yorker was also instrumental in exposing the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Critics argue that evidence obtained under duress is not admissible in court, and that therefore extraordinary rendition does not further legal American investigations of torture. In addition, torture is illegal in the United States, so the country is essentially outsourcing its torture to nations that will perform it. Furthermore, there have been several well documented instances of the rendition of innocent people, who have been kept incommunicado for months or years in a clear violation of their human rights.

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anon262456
Post 10

So I suppose these rules can apply to Americans that other countries deem to be "terrorists" or "threats" or whatever buzzword they want to use, right?

I can think of several known war criminals who are American citizens that I wouldn't lose any sleep over if foreign nationals kidnapped (er, sorry, "rendered") somewhere else to face justice. Like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice to name a few. By any objective standard, they are guilty of launching a war of aggression against Iraq which was doing absolutely nothing to warrant an invasion of its territory.

Call it a "war of choice" all you want, but that's the same logic used by the Nazis when they invaded Poland. It was a war of choice taken to "preempt" future Polish aggression against Germany. Didn't hold water for them and it doesn't hold water when the U.S. does it. Invading a country that isn't provoking you is automatically a war of aggression, defined by the Geneva Conventions as "the supreme international crime". Hence, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell are war criminals who deserve to be tried in the Hague for crimes against humanity. So does Henry Kissinger for his own crimes during the Nixon era.

I welcome the kidnapping (sorry, "rendition", why do I keep calling it kidnapping? Maybe because it is) of all of these monsters because it's painfully obvious the U.S. is too weak and corrupt to prosecute them itself. If Americans have a problem with that, or a problem with any other country designating any American citizen on a whim as an "enemy combatant"/"terrorist"/"threat"/whatever and kidnapping them. it would only serve to emphasize their hypocrisy. One set of rules, America. For you and the rest of the world. One set of rules, not rules for you versus other rules for everyone else. Got it?

CosmicSurfer
Post 9

So, if the US decides that they can pick up anyone, anywhere, at any time, because they might have information that is deemed important to the US, then that is true of every country, So, say, China has the right to pick up Bill Gates, kidnap him, torture and destroy him and his family - that's OK.

Cambodia can kidnap and torture George Tenet? Or Afghanistan has the right to kidnap and torture Dick Cheney? All's fair.

Just to get this straight. All people of the world are just failed attempts at being us. That is the message being given, and you are all OK with that?

We have become a nation of psychopathic narcissists, but that's OK because it is the USA!

anon132912
Post 7

I agree. The USA should be allowed to seize foreign nationals it deems terrorists and spirit them away to third nations for the purposes of detainment and interrogation.

ust as China should be allowed to seize US nationals it deems terrorists off the streets of New York or Washington and take them to North Korea or Burma for the same purposes.

Geneva convention be damned. That's only meant to apply to losers anyway.

HooperLH
Post 6

It's obvious that too many people keep parroting headlines, sound bites and buzzwords. International law, the Geneva Convention, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and others are quite specific and comprehensive in their requirements, what they allow and what they regulate.

For example, the Geneva Convention only holds and applies if both sides are signatories and abide by the rules. As soon as one side violates the rules, they have technically voided any protections guaranteed by the GC. The UCMJ goes into a great amount of detail distinguishing legal vs. illegal, and combatants vs. non-combatants and what rules and restrictions apply to each of these four classes of individuals.

It is quite tiresome to have to listen to arguments that cite various conventions, laws, etc. to justify a position when it is quite obvious that there is little (if any) understanding of those conventions.

anon30003
Post 5

to Dr K.H.:

Seems you know nothing about insane asylums and ethical alternatives - wish I knew where this sort of thinking is granted with a PhD?

Foofie
Post 4

Are there not abductions by extraterrestrials that basically are the same thing, only we do not give much credence to it, since we do not recognize alien political entities?

But back to Earthly matters, would extraordinary rendition be thought of as such if the "citizen of the world" concept be better codified? Perhaps the world needs an international Treaty of Renditions, whereby signing nations would accept participating in an extraordinary rendition for the betterment of world security?

anon29939
Post 3

Ridiculous to be rigorous in a war with out-of-uniform combatants from radical Islam. Not only should they have the protection of the Geneva Conventions, but should also have the protection given to U.S. citizens. Besides, such activity-extraordinary rendition-might lead to some useful information that would prevent thousands of deaths and millions of dollars of property damage and not well meaning kum bah yah singers would ever want that to happen, especially to the detriment of a poor misguided sincere radical Muslim.

anon29918
Post 2

If extreme interrogation saves lives, then it is justified, no matter what.

This is the rationale that was used for the use of the first atomic mass destruction weapon against Japan in 1945.

Would you rather have had thousands of our young men sacrificed as an "ethical" alternative???

The world is a gigantic insane asylum - learn to use the most effective ways of dealing with that!!

Dr.K.H. Australia

anon29915
Post 1

Hmmmm, nobody wants to touch this one! But I will. Kidnapping a foreign national in their own country without that country's consent is illegal (there is a *legal* way to kidnap)? A violation of civil and human rights (by what definition)?

All kinds of talk about breaking the law without citations...

Can't give you any cred on this one S.E. Smith.

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