Outsourcing Torture redux

by Ted on September 29, 2004

What Belle said: Please, please contact your Representatives about this bill. I’m including the email that I sent to my Rep under the fold. Feel free to use any or all of it.

I implore you to support Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey in his efforts to explicitly outlaw the practice of “extraordinary rendition”, in which a terrorist suspect is extradited to another country where he will be tortured. Markey’s bill can be found at http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_cr/rendition-bill.pdf.

The torture of suspects is forbidden under the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading and Inhuman Treatment. But we need not depend on the U.N. for guidance on the basic moral question of whether torture of human beings is an acceptable practice. The practice of government-sponsored torture is utterly incompatable with our American ideals.

If Markey’s bill is not passed, Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004,” introduced by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), will effectively legalize extraordinary rendition. These sections would exclude any suspected terrorist from the protections of the U.N. Convention, therefore allowing them to be deported to a country that will engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish “by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured.” This is clearly an impossible standard for a suspect being held in secret to overcome.

The law would place the power of extraordinary rendition in the hands of the Secretary of Homeland Defense. Furthermore, it would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary’s regulations. Much of the genius of our Constitution lies in its limits on government power. The threat of terror requires serious, aggressive countermeasures. However, it does not require that we abandon the wisdom of our fundamental principles, or the sanity of our system of checks and balances.

Again I ask, in the strongest possible terms, that you please support Congressman Markey’s bill.



Alex R 09.29.04 at 5:07 pm

Ted —
Your letter is good, but in once sense it could be stronger: the “clear and convincing evidence” condition is for *anybody* to avoid deportation — if you “engage in terrorist activity”, any regulations against deportation are explicitly waived — even if you will definitely be tortured.

Aside: the definition of engaging in terrorist activity is quite broad — look, for example in USC 8 sec 1182, (a)(3)(B)(iv) — and includes such things like raising money for organizations that you know (or should have known) are terrorist organizations. Call it the “Cat Stevens” definition — arguably acceptable as a justification for preventing entry, but here used to allow torture…


Ginger Yellow 09.29.04 at 6:09 pm

There is no way this law is compatible with the Covention, which explicitly says a) “No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture” and b) “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. “

Now of course, there’s only really Congress and the American people to enforce US compliance, but still, if this law goes ahead then the US will prima facie be in breach of the Convention.


Idiot/Savant 09.29.04 at 9:39 pm

The US has a reservation to that article interpreting “substantial grounds” as “more likely than not”, but even so its difficult to see how its compatible.

I’d have thought that Article 15 (which bans the use of any statement extracted by torture from use in any proceedings) would make the whole idea worthless anyway. Except that the US isn’t interested in _prosecuting_ terrorists…


karol 09.30.04 at 2:55 am

Thank you for posting a copy of your email, but I’m afraid my rep won’t get it. He has been making some grunting noises recently related to ‘unnecessary outsourcing of jobs to feeriners’ so this is the angle that I’m trying in my email.

“I insist you stop the proposed outsourcing of work that Americans are perfectly capable of performing.”


bad Jim 09.30.04 at 9:07 am

Fafblog was already on this:

To pass the bill in this form would be inconceivable – for how can any red-blooded pro-torture Congressman justify outsourcing our nation’s torture work when American torturers are losing their jobs every day?


Charles Dodgson 09.30.04 at 1:01 pm

FWIW, it’s a bit more common to refer to proposed legislation by bill number. Markey’s bill is H.R. 4674; the text of the bill, and relevant press releases, are also available on Markey’s official web site (still in PDF, unfortunately), here.


yami 09.30.04 at 8:25 pm

Ted, I grabbed a couple sentences for my letter to the editor – much appreciated, and I hope you don’t mind the tinge of astroturf. In addition to writing our Reps, we should all be screaming from the hilltops.

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