Friday, February 06, 2009

Rendition Whitewash Continues

Leon Panetta's confirmation hearings for CIA Director got underway in Washington yesterday and not surprisingly the questions revolved around torture, which Panetta had no problem defining as waterboarding.

But after suggesting that Cheney broke the law by waterboarding he said he would not be in favor of prosecuting the spooks who did it, then said he wouldn't hesitate to ask Obama for authority to do it under a ticking time bomb scenario. As with everything else, they would do it much better than Bush, though. He ended his testimony railing on the divisive partisan nature of the Republicans followed by a passionate call for bi-partisan unity. Paraphrasing a little, of course.

Rendition, on the other hand, got less attention with many of the top news sites only giving it casual mention. Whether that was because Obama has vowed to continue it, or because Clinton started it, or both, will be left to the reader to decide. In the meantime, here are a few samples of late Thursday evening coverage:

Panetta said the U.S. government had sent detainees to other countries to be tortured. But when he was challenged by Sen. Kit Bond, the ranking Republican on the committee, he acknowledged he had not been briefed on the program.
This is rather humorous in its strategic omissions. CNN acknowledged rendition but refused to give the reader any context of when/where. Hey, why mess up perfectly good conventional wisdom?

New York Times:
Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of “rendition” — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country. But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions “that violate our human values.”
That was it, no mention of Kit Bond's questions.

Rendition has been used by U.S. presidents for several decades, and Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said the Clinton administration used it 80 times. However, Panetta said the difference is whether the prisoner is transferred to another government for prosecution in its judicial system or for secret interrogations that may cross the line into torture.
MSNBC was one of the few to use 'rendition' in their headline and did mention Bond, actually providing Clinton's numeric count. Better.

Washington Post:
The comments drew a challenge from the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), who disputed the suggestion that the CIA had condoned torture of detainees abroad and noted that the Clinton administration had ordered dozens of renditions.
Notice how 80 became 'dozens' in WaPo math. But points for a mention.

LA Times:
Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking Republican on the panel, noted that the Clinton administration had used the CIA to transfer prisoners to countries where they were subsequently executed. "Does that qualify as torture?" Bond asked.

"I think that is an appropriate use of rendition," as long as prisoners were turned over to the court systems of other nations, Panetta responded.
It will be impossible to determine the actual context of the hearing without a video clip but it's clear that a reader would need to visit multiple MSM news outlets to get the complete picture of what happened. For some reason.

MORE 2/6/09

"You cannot be making statements or making judgments based on rumors and news stories," he said.
So said Kit Bond to Leon Panetta today regarding his statement yesterday, without evidence, that the CIA under Bush had rendered captured terrorists to countries where they were summarily tortured. Today he walked that cat back, then added some lofty reassurances:
Panetta told the committee that the Obama administration will continue to hand foreign detainees over to other countries for questioning, but only if it is confident the prisoners will not be tortured in the process.

That has long been U.S. policy, but some former prisoners subjected to the process _ known as "extraordinary rendition" _ during the Bush administration's anti-terror war contend they were tortured. Proving that in court has proven difficult, as evidence they are trying to use has been protected by the president's state secret privilege.
Well, some prisoners subjected to the process under the Clinton administration were executed according to Bond. But c'mon, we know damn well they will be tortured, don't we?

The good news for CIA officers involved in enhanced interrogation is that the present government has no plans to prosecute them for trying to get mass casualty attack information out of head-chopping terrorists, but it does reserve the right to go after their superiors. Whether this includes George Tenet and John McGlaughlin is hazy, sort of like whether Obama meant Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow last night when he mocked cable news chatter. Admittedly though, this statement doesn't sound too promising for those with sugar plum frogmarches dancing in their heads:
Panetta said he believed the Bush administration was trying to protect the country from terrorists with its use of secret prisons, renditions and harsh interrogations.

"I think they made some wrong decisions, I think they made mistakes," he said. "I think sometimes they believe the ends justifies the means, and that's where people sometimes go wrong."
Ends no longer justify means? Rather encouraging coming from a liberal. Panetta added that the Obama administration will only do renditions from here forward (there was no mention of Clinton's 80 renditions in this article, either), which we all know worked out so well. Has the era of learning from our mistakes passed or is this adult realist just flat wrong?

Of course he's old and doesn't know that hope now trumps fear, unless pertaining to economic stimuli, and that we must protect the Constitution even if it means mushroom clouds and bio powder attacks, except where illegal aliens are involved in which the document is just a GD piece of paper.

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