'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, August 24, 2009

Plausible Deniability 

From today's New York Times:

The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terror suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but will monitor their treatment to insure they are not tortured, administration officials said on Monday.

The administration officials, who announced the changes on condition that they not be identified, said that unlike the Bush administration, they would give the State Department a larger role in assuring that transferred detainees would not be abused.

“The emphasis will be on insuring that individuals will not face torture if they are sent over overseas,” said one administration official, adding that no detainees will be sent to countries that are known to conduct abusive interrogations.

But human rights advocates condemned the decision, saying it would permit the transfer of prisoners to countries with a history of torture and that promises of humane treatment, called “diplomatic assurances,” were no protection against abuse.

Of course, there is only one reason to ship detainees to other countries for interrogation: to subject them, in the sanitized language of NPR, to extreme interrogation practices. Otherwise, why send them elsewhere at all?

So, the real purpose of these purported policies changes is something different, as I said in February:

Obama is smarter than Bush, and doesn't want to undertake travels abroad with his family under a cloud of war crimes charges after leaving the White House, so he's creating a paper trail to create a defense of plausible deniability. After all, you wouldn't want them to be afraid to enjoy themselves in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris or London, would you? A few weeks after he leaves office, the media will then feel free to expose the horrors of what he permitted on his watch.

And, naturally, this goes all the way down the chain of command, to the military and intelligence officers in the field who order renditions. They need a documentary record to conceal what they are really doing, so as to eliminate any possible legal exposure, such as, for example, the exposure that remains for some CIA interrogators and contractors.

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