There are too many questions here about the U.S. implicitly sanctioning torture through a policy of extraordinary rendition that need answers, e.g. see "America kidnapped me" and "London suspect in CIA torture claim" for accounts of two instances, one is the el-Masri case described below. I agree with Bob Herbert, this needs a very thorough airing to find out exactly what we are involved in with respect to extraordinary rendition and if we are involved, put a stop to it. I also would go a step further than Herbert calls for and hold those responsible accountable for their actions:
Our Dirty War, by Bob Herbert, Commentary, NY Times: ...Mr. Goering is the senior deputy executive director for policy and programs at Amnesty International USA. We were discussing a subject — government-sanctioned disappearances — that ordinarily would repel most Americans. ... But times change, and we've lowered our moral standards several notches ... people are disappearing at the hands of the U.S. government. "Below the Radar: Secret Flights to Torture and 'Disappearance' " is the title of a recent Amnesty International report on ... extraordinary rendition, a highly classified American program in which individuals are seized — abducted — without any semblance of due process and sent off to be interrogated by regimes that are known to engage in torture.
Some of the individuals swept up by rendition simply vanish. ... There is no way to know how many people have been seized, tortured or killed. Since there are no official proceedings, there is no way to know whether a particular individual ... is a legitimate terror suspect or someone who is innocent of any wrongdoing. But we have learned, after the fact, that mistakes have been made.
You may not be familiar with the name Khaled el-Masri... Mr. Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was arrested while visiting Macedonia in December 2003. A few weeks later, he was handed over to a group of masked men dressed all in black — in the so-called ninja outfits frequently worn by the rendition cowboys. Mr. Masri's clothes were cut off and he was drugged, put aboard a plane and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held in a squalid basement cell for five months.
It turned out, as noted by Dana Priest of The Washington Post, ... "the C.I.A. had imprisoned the wrong man." Ms. Priest wrote: "Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the C.I.A.'s counterterrorist center's Al Qaeda unit 'believed he was someone else,' ... 'She didn't really know. She just had a hunch.' "
Someone had a hunch that Maher Arar was a terrorist, too. A Canadian citizen ... born in Syria, he was snatched by American authorities at Kennedy Airport ... on Sept. 26, 2002, and shipped off to a nightmare in Syria that lasted nearly a year. He was held for most of that time in an underground, rat-infested cell about the size of a grave. No one, not even among the Syrians who tortured him, was ever able to come up with any evidence linking Mr. Arar to terrorism. He was released ... Shunned and emotionally shattered, he seems a ruined man at just 35 years of age. ...
The Amnesty International report describes various acts of torture and other forms of mistreatment that are alleged ... According to the report, Vincent Cannistraro, a former director of the C.I.A's Counterterrorism Center, said the following about a detainee who had been rendered to Egypt: "They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling things."
The Bush administration will never do the right thing when it comes to rendition. Congress needs to step in and thoroughly investigate this program, which is nothing less than a crime against humanity. Congress needs to investigate it, document it and shut it down.
I don't believe anyone should be subjected to torture, guilty or not. But if I was held in "an underground, rat-infested cell about the size of a grave" and subjected to the other things described in the reports, and I was innocent of any wrong doing as many of these people apparently are, I would want someone held accountable. Wouldn't you?