September 30, 2004

House Leadership Attempts to Legalize Torture

Write your Representative about this, if it's the only thing you do today! It's important.

Katherine (via hilzoy) of Obsidian Wings writes that the House of Representatives is planning to pass a bill to put a legal imprimatur on the process of "extraordinary rendition," which means sending a person to another country to be tortured. Katherine has posted extensively about the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian with dual Syrian citizenship who was snatched while changing planes in the U.S. and sent to Syria to be tortured; Arar, it seems, was completely innocent of anything and grabbed on the flimsiest grounds. The current bill would make the process legal, routine, and unreviewable--the Secretary of Homeland Defense would have the power to send anyone to be tortured. If you think this power would be used only on the worst people, consider Arar--and anyway, the United States should not be doing this to the Devil himself.

The text of my letter to my representative is below the fold. Read also Ted Barlow (who includes his letter), Belle Waring, and Sebastian Holsclaw. And, to be shrill, Mark A.R. Kleiman and Michael Froomkin are right; decent Republicans like Sebastian take this issue seriously, but it is clear that the party leadership does not. [UPDATE: According to Ted, the provision survived in committee on a PARTY-LINE VOTE. I have nothing to add that I wouldn't regret later.]

Dear Representative Kleczka:

I am writing to you concerning the practice of "extraordinary
rendition," which is a euphemism for sending people to other
countries to be tortured. Sadly, the United States is poised
to explicitly legalize this practice of extraordinary rendition.
I ask that you oppose it in the strongest possible terms by
opposing H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation
Act of 2004," as it stands, and by supporting Representative
Edward Markey's Bill to outlaw extraordinary rendition.

Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, introduced
by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL),
would exclude any suspected terrorist from
the protection of the U.N. Convention against
torture, and would require a person who wished
to avoid rendition to provide "clear and convincing
evidence that he or she would be tortured." It
would be impossible for any person in custody
to meet such a proof. Thus, these provisions
would effectively make it possible for the
Secretary of Homeland Defense to order torture
at will; and it would prevent the courts from
reviewing his decisions.

I need hardly say how immoral and un-American
torture is. I will add that it is an ineffective
way of fighting terror; there are many more
effective countermeasures that we could take
and are not taking (funding port security,
for instance). Not only is it wrong and
ineffective to torture even guilty persons,
there is no guarantee that the innocent will
not be tortured; the provisions authorize
torture of terrorist *suspects*.

Again, I ask in the strongest possible terms
that you oppose the relevant provisions of HR 10
and support Representative Markey's bill,
which can be found at

Yours truly,
Matthew Weiner

Posted by Matt Weiner at September 30, 2004 10:32 AM