Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thinking about Extraordinary Rendition

I remember when I first heard that there was a movie staring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and Alan Arkin called Rendition I was very excited.

With a film title like Rendition, my first thought was the movie is about a painting, or maybe it's another Adaptation/Stranger than Fiction type of film. Yet the movie synopsis' only talked about a CIA agent seeing something troubling done in secret by Egyptian police or something-other.

Yet it didn't take me long to realize that Rendition was a legal word for handing someone over from one jurisdiction to another, whether between states or countries. Yet rendition as a legally legit concept, has an illegal counterpart often called Extraordinary Rendition.

Extraordinary Rendition is a technical term for secret government torture. For example, say hypothetically there was a terror suspect who might know important information regarding a future terrorist attack, the government agency (let's say the CIA) could capture a terrorist, then hand them over to another countries government were the could be tortured for sensitive information.

The act of extraordinary rendition is obviously illegal, but it is largely believed to have been used/being used in the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Last month I wrote about my disappointment with torture being used as a form of entertainment/sexual perversion in films like Hostel II, Grindhouse, and Captivity which are in theaters this year.

Yet, when I read or think about extraordinary rendition and torture as it applies to terrorism, I do not think of films like those, rather I think of Fox's hit television program 24. There has been many episodes where innocent and guilty people alike get tortured. Almost always, the scenes are horribly gruesome and absolutely unejoyable. And in the world of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) torture (without government approval) is just part of the job.

Yet, when I watch 24 I don't get angry, because I connect and trust Kiefer Sutherland general discretion. But when I research about the alleged use of extraordinary rendition by the United States and other countries it is very disheartening and unsettling.

I am certainly excited to see the upcoming film Rendition, and think that it certainly has the potential to get some critical and academy awards recognition, and I hope that it will also open up the conversation on this topic to a wider public.

Should a government and it's people turn it's head to due process in the face of fear? This is a complicated topic, and one I've been thinking about for awhile and yet, I have yet to develop firm opinions on the matter. I'm interested in hearing the thoughts of more people on the matter.

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15 comments:

J.D. said...

From that, this'll kick up controversy as it's release date gets closer...

Fox said...

Great post...

I have yet to form a solid opinion on torture and rendition as well.

Let's say England sent somebody like, say, Abu Hamza, back to Egypt, and the Egytptian government tortures him, thus revealing terror plots like the two in London and Glasgow. Would I be ok with that torture? Yes. I say yes b/c I think it's pretty clear to most people that Abu Hamza is an evil man.

However, what's hurt the US with the Gitmo situation, and with someone like Jose Padilla, is our government's inability to make a clear case against them. I tend to think that Padilla and the Gitmo detainees are on the wrong side of life, but I'll admit that there is a part of me that is doubtful. I'm NOT doubtful of someone like Abu Hamza (or for that matter, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at Gitmo.)

To me, something like Abu Ghraib is inexcusable b/c the pictures reveal "enjoyment" in the torture, not tactical efforts to retrieve info. Having said that, when someone draws parallels to what we did to the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and what Saddam did to prisoners at Abu Ghraib, it makes me twitch.

Thanks for the thoughtful post...

Barry said...

Thank you very much for the happy birthday. I will be posting the cake pic tomorrow..even though it won't be my birthday then. Oh well :)

Mercurie said...

I think extraordinary rendition is a very hard issue to approach. My gut reaction is that torture under any circumstances is wrong. But then, as fox pointed out, if torture reveals a terror plot like those two in London and Glasgow, would that particular instance of torture be acceptable? Is the use of torture acceptable if it saves many, many lives? It's a question I would think many people would have problems answering.

Scott Roche said...

I'll give this some thought.

Meanwhile, u r tagged.

RWA said...

Wow. That is very interesting. I would have thought "Rendition" as a title to mean something far different.

I will definitely have to check this one out.

the teach said...

You can't say torture is okay IF it reveals terrorist plots after the torture. So what about torture that reveals no info about plots in the future? That's why torture is ALWAYS wrong. You can't torture because it MIGHT reveal terror plots in the future. That's why we have the Geneva Conventions which prohibit torture. It's realistic and logical. We don't torture them, they don't torture us. That's the rule.

Jon said...

Dr. Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, wrote about Jack Bauer and torture a while back - you can read it here.

Bennett said...

A Utilitarian would say that torture is good any time when the pain suffered by the individual would not exceed the collective pain suffered by the many. By this reason we could justify human sacrifice. For example, lets say that by killing one baby (causing her 100 percent loss) we could increase 1 million people's gain by .1% That would produce a 100,000% gain for the collective.

Then you have to get into the definition of "good" which our society is increasingly saying does not universally exist.

Our society seems to be developing a liability-based ethic. If you could have done something to prevent something bad from happening then it is your fault that it happened.

Garrett said...

Nice Blog. I'll stop by more often.

weepingsam said...

I don't see much ambiguity about torture. If right and wrong, good and evil, exist, and mean anything, torture is wrong, and evil. Washing our hands of it, sending people off for other countries to do our dirty work just adds cowardice to the crime. As for the fantasies that torture might prevent a bomb going off - those are lies. Maybe we tell them to ourselves to hide what we are really doing; there are certainly plenty of liars deliberately trying to justify torture - either way, but they are lies. Ticking bomb scenarios only exist on TV and the movies; torture does not get good information from anyone. And really, isn't meant to. Torture is meant to do two things: cause pain to the person being tortured - and intimidate other people. People like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are tortured as punishment, not for the information (which was, of course, worse than useless, since good chunks of it were made up whole cloth: which torture will do - get people to sing like canaries, and usually compose as well. [Can't remember where that joke comes from - I didn't make it up, unfortunately.]) There are no conditions under which torture is anything other than wrong and evil.

Kimberly said...

Well, first off, I was educated by this post; I did not know what Extraordinary Rendition was.

That said, I have thought some about torture situations, though not to a great extent. My initial reaction is to agree with weepingsam; torture is inherently bad and evil. I also agree that torture scenes would seem to produce the results that we see on shows like 24, only on TV where Kiefer Sutherland can also navigate across LA in less than 1 hour (real time, of course).

I love 24 and I think we can cheer for Jack Bauer and the CTU crew because the circumstances are ficticous. The problem in real life is that I can't imagine a human who could operate as emotionally (where appropriate) detached, mentally resolved and focused on the task and ultimately right all the time...

I am grossly reminded of the "Standford Prison Experiment" where students were given roles to play out over a peroid of time, including prison guards and prisoners. It is astonishing to watch the students who were assigned to be prison guards assume the role to the extent of becoming abusive, which ultimately caused the experiment to be called off.

Human nature leads to something like Abu Ghraib, not Jack Bauer and 24.

Anonymous said...

Torture has not been shown to elicit "good intelligence". In fact, I recently read a post in the Huffington Post (by a former FBI lawyer - I think) where she claims that it has been found that more 'traditional' interrogation methods are far more reliable than torture.
And listen to this former interrogator describe his reactions to being a participant in a torture. It broke my heart to hear how it had damaged his soul.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10806802

Tim said...

The War College approached the producers of 24 to get them to curtail the torture because of the viewers trust of Bauer. It actually put me off this past season as the headlines blossomed and it dawned on me that truthfully doesn't work at all. The military doesn't like it, just the spooks in the CIA operating under ancient text books still push it.

Anonymous said...

"because I connect and trust Kiefer Sutherland general discretion." Oh please, 24 is so lightweight. And torture is just another way of saying "stress positions". Now Dexter, there's a thinking man's TV Show! I mean cmon, somebody has to take out the garbage. When it comes to trust, I connect and trust Dexter's discretion to live by the code of a serial killer with standards. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's OK. It just make this meme even funnier and more surrealistic for me. (grin) - Jimmy Paravane

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