Amidst the nightmare surrounding Guantanamo Bay, its closing, its inmates, wardens, agents, security forces and the overseeing administration,  one very sore thumb sticks out: the “rendition tool”.

© The Guardian

© The Guardian

The ever-so-powerful Central Intelligence Agency operates on a supposedly very efficient counter-terrorism technique: the rendition tool implies the capture – abduction – of an alleged terrorist and transfer them to a country ‘cooperating’ with the United States, ie. practising interrogation techniques prohibited by the 1975 Convention Against Torture, leaving the United States free to submit prisoners to “stress and duress” without risking any prosecution (the C.A.T. implies that torture must happen on national territory to warrant prosecution). This is where the “ghost planes” rumour, later to be proven true, was born. Prisoners have indeed been suing the CIA and its associate, Boeing Corporation, over what the European Union has deemed an “illegal instrument” of law enforcement. Between botched abduction and mistaken identities, the CIA didn’t intend to just keep terrorists off the streets. It could have been anyone they had set their eyes on.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, an official of the Obama Administration commented on the issue under the cover of anonymity: “Obviously you need to preserve some tools, you still have to go after the bad guys. The legal advisers working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.” Disputing the “obvious concept”, we can only hope that said parameters imply due process and dropping the legal loophole that the “unlawful enemy combatant” definition is creating. The American intelligence agency should only act under evidence proven undisputable in a court of law. It also goes without saying that if the United States are fighting the good fight, they should not have to deport prisoners to countries operating under a shady criminal system in order to retrieve confessions which veracity remains just as doubtful.

The provision under which the practice of rendition also gave the CIA the ability to detain and interrogate potential terrorists, “as long as it is not long term” (the duration not being precised, it is easy to conclude that custody would certainly extend beyond the 48 hours delay given by the law). What is even more worrying is that the measure ordering the CIA to close down its “secret prison sites” (a gateway to anyone’s worst nightmares) “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.” Again, as the maximum duration of custody has not been specifically mentioned, one can easily let their imagination run amok as to where any suspect could be held in transitory facilities that can easily become not so temporary after all. Human Rights Watch’s advocacy director in Washington, Tom Malinowsky, applauded these decisions with both hands: “Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place for renditions. What I heard loud and clear from the president’s order was that they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured.”

This is not exactly what I heard. What I heard was a good attempt at compromise, but one doesn’t compromise on the possibility, even weak, of torture.

Treating the symptom is satisfying and necessary, but won’t help for long if the cause is not treated as well.  Closing Guantanamo Bay was a necessary and efficient decision to take, restoring hope and confidence in the United States never to behave like a medieval rogue state again. Closing down CIA secret prison sites was the sign of a considerable effort towards transparency in the application of justice, and the beginning of a more controlled “war on terror”, after eight years of fear and pain going haywire on paranoia and propaganda. But the CIA still remains an unspeakable force seemingly crossing the borders of international law, and its possibilities of detention and interrogation blur every possible line. This is not the accountable and responsible intelligence force we had thought of when voting for the representant of peace-building over war-keeping. A government doesn’t protect its citizens from the threat of terror with a similar threat of terror over anyone who may be guilty, or as well as – wrong place, wrong time happened before, and it will happen again.

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