Amnesty International has a long press release out today looking at CIA illegal rendition and detention policies in the light of bush's recent executive order geen-lighting the continuation of those programs. The Amnesty release takes a hard look at the legal arguments the Bush administration has forwarded to claim that these programs are legal by US and international law.
Short version - Bush is twisting the law all out of shape. When other nations (e.g. Chnia, Zimbabwe or Uzbekistan) do the same things, they are sufficient to get those nations included on the U.S. Sate Dept.'s list of countries violating international human rights laws.
As usual for the Bush administration, the primary reason for the secrecy of such programs is to ass-cover the executive.
The executive order suggests that the test of whether any particular acts undertaken as part of the secret program comply with the common Article 3 prohibition on "outrages on personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment" is whether "any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts beyond the bounds of human decency". The necessary external independent assessment is impossible, however. The interrogation techniques and detention conditions remain classified at the highest level of secrecy. The detainee held in secret custody has no access to relatives, legal counsel, the courts, independent doctors, human rights monitors, or the ICRC, possibly for years. This makes the reach and effectiveness of the executive order impossible for either the interrogators implementing the order or, indeed, the outside world to assess.Yet it is solely upon weasel-words and deliberate secrecy in order to prohibit discovery that the administration's ass-covering rests. International law is clear:
Secrecy breeds abuse. This is a principal reason why secret detention is prohibited – because it facilitates torture and other ill-treatment, as well as amounting to such treatment in and of itself. As the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated recently in its severe criticism of the CIA program, such detentionAs is U.S. law:"falls outside of all national and international legal regimes pertaining to the safeguards against arbitrary detention. In addition the secrecy surrounding the detention and the interstate transfer of suspected terrorists may expose the persons affected to torture, forced disappearance, extra judicial killing and in case they are prosecuted against, to the lack of the guarantees of a fair trial."
"The Constitution of the United States stands as a bar against the conviction of any individual in an American court by means of a coerced confession. There have been, and are now, certain foreign nations with governments dedicated to an opposite policy: governments which convict individuals with testimony obtained by police organizations possessed of an unrestrained power to seize persons suspected of crimes against the state, hold them in secret custody, and wring from them confessions by physical or mental torture. So long as the Constitution remains the basic law of our Republic, America will not have that kind of government." US Supreme Court, 1944That 1944 Supreme Court obviously never envisioned a government like that of George W. Bush.
Amnesty International asks Congress to immediately pass legislation to restore Habeas Corpus rights to detainees, as well as to explicitly outlaw the current rendition and detention program, so as to bring the U.S. back inside mainstream international law. It also asks Congress to begin hearings into the establishment and operation of the CIA’s secret detention program with particular reference to "examining the decision-making process by which detainees were included in the program and their interrogation and treatment."
Amnesty also appeals to the international community, asking other nations to "end any cooperation or facilitation of any kind with secret detention" and "desist from expelling, returning, surrendering, or extraditing a person to US custody where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to secret detention or enforced disappearance, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
Welcome to Bush World (and Mitt World) - where the U.S.A. is an international human rights pariah, rather than the home of freedom its Founders envisioned.