Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Extraordinary Rendition: It's Not Just A Bush-Cheney Thing

Kevin Gosztola of FDL, yesterday:

Rendition of Libyan Terror Suspect: What If Abu Anas al-Liby Had Nothing to Do With the Embassy Bombings?

By: Kevin Gosztola Monday October 14, 2013 8:11 pm

A Libyan terror suspect kidnapped from Libya in a raid by US special forces on October 5 was transferred from the naval ship, where he was being detained and interrogated, into “law enforcement custody” over the weekend.

The Justice Department indicated in a press release that he was “brought directly to the Southern District of New York, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade.” He was expected to be brought before a judge on October 15.

Al-Liby is suspected of being involved in the bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Last week, a chief federal public defender, David E. Patton, according to the Los Angeles Times, had pressed a federal judge to order that he be “brought to court immediately,” as he was aboard a ship being interrogated by the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which is a special task force of personnel from the Pentagon, FBI, CIA and other agencies. He had not been read Miranda rights, which he and other terror suspects have a right to be read if they are being prosecuted under US law. But a federal judge would not issue such an order and would not appoint a defense lawyer to represent him either.

A more critical issue is that al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, may not be the dangerous al Qaeda terrorist the United States government believes he happens to be.

Please read the rest of Gosztola's post. It is a case study in our government's unconstitutional (indeed un-American) actions in extraordinary rendition cases.

I have read the Bill of Rights many times. I skimmed it one more time before writing this post. And with the possible exception of the 10th Amendment (and it's hard to tell on that one), none of the enumerated rights apply only to US citizens. In particular, in this case, foreigners retain judicial due process rights as surely as citizens.

In spite of this, we see extraordinary rendition inflicted not merely by the admittedly evil George W. Bush and Dick Cheney but also by the allegedly more moderate Barack Obama. Refusing to read Miranda rights as a protection of due process? moderate? refusing to appoint a defense attorney? moderate? Not hardly! Our nation's founders are surely spinning in their graves.

And remember, this is process for a man who appears (to some people at least) to be trying to cooperate with the government... to be sure, acting in his own best interest (that's his right), and possibly having been a terrorist (that's to be determined by trial, not merely assumed without trial), but apparently trying to cooperate.

If our courts begin abducting people who are trying to cooperate (perhaps to prevent their testimony?), if our courts begin denying due process rights (guaranteed by our Constitution not just to citizens, but to people in general when under US jurisdiction), what possible confidence can we have that they will not turn the same extreme measures against American citizens when they find it convenient? And... what a time to decide to do this, while most of us are distracted by the government shutdown!

Niemöller nailed it in 1946, though he was speaking about German Nazis... in one variant, "First they came for the Jews..." Well, now they're coming for the alleged terrorists, and I'm damned if I will remain silent. Even a terrorist deserves a fair trial. Even a terrorist deserves a defense attorney.

UPDATE: from an AP article:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four years after his failed effort to bring the 9/11 mastermind to New York for trial, President Barack Obama has reinstated the federal courthouse as America's preferred venue for prosecuting suspected terrorists.

His administration has done so by quietly securing conviction after conviction in the civilian judicial system. Meanwhile at Guantanamo Bay, admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's case moves at a snail's pace.

Right. It's amazing how many convictions you can obtain if you refuse to appoint a defense attorney...


  1. Was this a case of extraordinary rendition? He wasn't snatched and held indefinitely in some black site. He was snatched and turned over to the civilian justice system (albeit after 10 days in the military's custody on a ship in international waters). I thought the whole idea of extraordinary rendition is that the person in question was not turned over the the American court system and instead was handed over (i.e. "rendered") to some third party state so it could torture that person using methods that the U.S. was not willing to do itself.

  2. 'noz, what is "ordinary" about omitting to read a defendant his Miranda rights before interrogating him? and especially what is ordinary about refusing to offer to provide counsel for his defense? It may not be torture, but IMHO (IANAL) it isn't justice, either.

  3. I agree it's not just. It's just not what I thought of what "extraordinary rendition" is supposed to mean. My impression of the term is that it means sending a person to a third country for torture rather than delivering that person to the U.S. court system.

    What they did to "al-Liby" (aside: I hate how they use that name, by the way. It just means "the Libyan". Just about anyone they grab from Libya can be called "al-Liby") was keep him out of the regular judicial system for 10 days so they could question him without any constitutional rights. Then the military interrogators lefft, they Mirandaized him, and FBI agents questioned him using the regular legal protections.

    Now that he is in federal court, he has been appointed defense counsel. I just used my special lawyer powers to pull up the court docket. It is case number 1:98-cr-01023-LAK-21 (SDNY) and the names of his attorneys are David E. Patton and Sabrina P. Shroff, both with the office of the Federal Defenders of NY.

    1. Thanks for the clarification, 'noz. The whole FISA court thing makes me nervous as hell, and I can't help thinking it is intended to do so... to make American citizens nervous as hell. Circumventing the Bill of Rights implies a certain contempt for them, and they shouldn't be doing it no matter what. If "al-Liby" is in fact a terrorist, they'd have no trouble obtaining a conviction without screwing with constitutional rights.



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