Column by Alex Shaner
With the initiation of the War on Terror in 2001, the policies that the U.S. uses to find, capture and detain terrorists came under scrutiny from the international community. From allegations of human rights abuses to an invasion of state sovereignty, the U.S. has made many “enemies” in the pursuit of terrorism worldwide.
One practice in particular, extraordinary rendition, demeans our role as a global leader committed to human rights and justice.
While the Obama Administration curtailed some of the practices regarding torture, the ability for the U.S. to enter sovereign soil and capture suspected terrorist without trial or approval of that country leaves lasting implications for our allies across the world.
The Bush Administration began using rendition, which means handing over a person to another country, in an extrajudicial manner.
This means that the U.S. would apprehend suspected terrorists without the host country’s permission then take them to “Black Sites,” which are bases in other countries.
Usually, these countries where the suspect would be transported were staunch U.S. allies with brutal regimes of their own. Egypt under Mubarak was a partner in this process. Several European countries, including our strong allies Germany, France and the United Kingdom have repeatedly called on our government to end this process and pursue terrorists under the International Criminal Court.
However, the United States is one of a few nations that has not agreed to the ICC. There have been many documented cases where suspects who were taken under this procedure turned out to be innocent or mistaken for someone else. This led many in the press to dub the program erroneous rendition.
While campaigning on promises to close Guantanamo Bay and end this process, President Obama has done neither. While he issued an executive order to investigate extraordinary rendition and stop the use of torture, the process is still active.
The U.S. has closed most “Black Sites,” but the CIA continues to round up suspected terrorists without permission from the host country.
Advocates of extraordinary rendition will quickly point out that the U.S. would not have captured Osama bin Laden without this process.
There are differences. That action was coordinated military/intelligence activity that took years to fully execute.
Extraordinary rendition often involves solely the CIA flying all over the world and taking suspected terrorists from their homes and families and locking them into prison without formally bringing charges.
This practice severely harms our alliances. Between this practice and our increased surveillance, our allies will not be as open to us as they have been in years prior.
Our government should focus our resources on cooperating with our allies in identifying known terrorists and doing our best to respect the state sovereignty of other nations by forming agreements regarding terrorist and other contingencies.
Extraordinary rendition as it is currently used significantly harms our relationships with our allies and is not consistent with our government’s passion and call for human rights and dignity.
We need to investigate this process and find a solution where we can find terrorists that pose a significant and eminent threat rather than relying on suspected information and allegations.
Shaner is a senior international relations and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Column by Alec Hamilton
One of those tactics is called extraordinary rendition, which has been practiced by the U.S. for decades and not just since the attack on the World Trade Center.
Extraordinary rendition is the practice of capturing and transporting suspected terrorists from foreign countries to allied countries where they are interrogated before being extradited to the country where they have committed their crimes or who they have committed them against.
Many critics of the practice have equated it to kidnapping followed by torture. Today, the practice still exists, though the Obama administration continues to stamp out any semblance of the torture aspect that the CIA and interrogation camps are accused of.
Setting aside the issue of torture, should the U.S. continue its practice of extraordinary rendition? Does it do more harm than good?
I argue that the practice needs to continue and that it’s necessary when combating terrorism, which is vastly different from any other kind of criminal or combatant.
The War on Terror has presented challenges to the U.S. from the very beginning that no other country had ever faced.
Fighting international organizations that commit crimes against numerous countries yet cannot be fought by conventional means.
This isn’t an international criminal who can be picked up through cooperation between government, because the international criminal does not have the information and resources of a terrorist. This isn’t a national or international criminal group who can be infiltrated or combated with a local police force. This isn’t a foreign military group that can be destroyed and dispersed in conventional battles. No, terrorist groups encompass the most effective characteristics of such groups without the weaknesses. How, then, was the U.S. to conduct its War on Terror?
What the U.S. did was conduct the most extensive intelligence-gathering and covert operations the world has ever seen. The CIA began gathering as much information as they could on al-Qaeda and all its connections.
To do this, a massive surveillance effort is still used to track all sorts of suspects and known members throughout the world. However, when the U.S. wanted to seize a suspect, it could not simply ask the host country to do it for it. Terrorist networks are well- connected and any government involvement would tip off the suspect that he was in danger. Even if the host country was able to seize the suspect, then there are the mass complexities of whether or not there are extradition agreements, etc., that could take months.
All of this is completely counter-intuitive when time is of the essence to prevent attacks or move against al-Qaeda locations. Simply put, if the U.S. was to truly be effective against the amoeba that is al-Qaeda, it could not play by international law.
Going through host countries would tip off the target.
Timely interrogation would not happen as they muddled through extradition agreements.
Even then, if caught, the U.S. would be forced to put the suspect through the ICC which would remove all chance of interrogation and have no guarantee the suspect would be convicted.
In short, extraordinary rendition is necessary in the War on Terror since the usual rules of war and enemy combatants do not apply.
I am not advocating interrogatio but that the U.S. has the right to seize these suspects for their culpability in any and all terrorist attacks against the U.S.
Hamilton is a senior international relations and news-Internet double major and can be reached at email@example.com