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The Collective
Sunday, October 21, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Daniel Benjamin (a former member of the NSC staff focusing on counterterrorism) tries to put a happy face on the practice of rendition in today’s WaPo, given the forthcoming movie of that name: 5 Myths About Rendition (and That New Movie). Some, such as the fact that rendition pre-existed the Bush administration, are fair enough.

However, #5 struck me:

5. Pretty much anyone — including U.S. citizens and green card holders — can be rendered these days.

Not so, although the movie “Rendition” — in which Witherspoon’s Egyptian-born husband gets the black-hood treatment and is yanked from a U.S. airport and taken to a North African chamber of horrors — is bound to spread this myth. A “U.S. person” (citizen or legal resident) has constitutional protections against being removed from the country through rendition, and there have been no incidents to suggest the contrary.

Now, one would like to think that this is the case, given the clear constitutional rights of American citizens. However, prior to May 8, 2002, I would have thought that it would have been a “myth” to suggest that an American citizen could be arrested on US soil and held as an “illegal combatant” and denied basic due process for almost five years. Surely that violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution of the United States. Yet, it happened.

As such, I do not find Benjamin’s assurances on this issue to be all that convincing. This administration has taken for itself extraordinary powers in the name of fighting terrorism, and there are no assurances that the next occupant of the White House will be much different (especially if it is Giuliani, but Clinton doesn’t inspire much confidence, either) as it seems that fear of another attack has led to both parties being quite willing to demure to the executive.

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