Did Clinton approve renditions like Bush?





A February 6 Washington Post article about Leon Panetta's Senate confirmation hearing as CIA director reported that "Panetta said he would oppose 'extraordinary rendition,' the forced transfer of detainees to another country, in cases in which the suspects might be tortured" and that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) "noted that the Clinton administration had ordered dozens of renditions." However, the article did not note Panetta's response to Bond's statement that "during the Clinton administration there were approximately 80 renditions of terror suspects during your watch as chief of staff of the White House." In that response, Panetta differentiated between "extraordinary renditions" under the Bush administration "where I think the situation where we took a prisoner and sent him to another country for questioning and often times that questioning took place under circumstances that did not meet our test for human values" and renditions in which individuals were returned "to countries of jurisdiction" or "rendered back to this country for purposes of trial." Panetta called the latter types of rendition "an important tool."

During the hearing, Bond stated that "during the Clinton administration there were approximately 80 renditions of terror suspects during your watch as chief of staff of the White House" and asked of Panetta: "Do you have any comments on the renditions which occurred during your watch as chief of staff?" Panetta responded: "Well, I think you have to define what kind of renditions we're talking about." He continued:

PANETTA: Obviously, extraordinary renditions where I think the situation where we took a prisoner and sent him to another country for questioning and often times that questioning took place under circumstances that did not meet our test for human values. Renditions have been a tool used by this government over the years. Returning individuals to countries of jurisdiction -- Carlos the Jackal was taken and returned to France under a rendition. Others have been -- there were prisoners that we captured abroad that were rendered back to this country for purposes of trial. I think those kinds of renditions are an appropriate tool. I do not believe that we ought to use --

FEINSTEIN: Could you hold the microphone, it's just gone off.

PANETTA: I've got this, I've got it. I do not believe that, and as I said, under the executive order, I do not believe we ought to use renditions for the purpose of sending people to black sites and not providing the kind of oversight that I believe is necessary. Now, having said that, if we capture a high-value prisoner, I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily, to be able to debrief that individual, and then to make sure that that individual is properly incarcerated, so that we can maintain control over that individual. And I think that, frankly, I think that's provided for under the executive order.

Panetta further said of extraordinary renditions under the Bush administration:

PANETTA: I have not been officially briefed on any of the extraordinary renditions as to what actually took place. My understanding is that there were black sites. My understanding is we used those during that time. Some of these were permanent facilities. What took place with those individuals I don't have any direct evidence of. But obviously there were indications that those countries did not use the kind of, or meet the kind of, human values that we would extend to prisoners. So it's for those reasons that the president acted to prevent extraordinary renditions.

Moreover, as Media Matters for America has noted, investigative journalist Jane Mayer reported in the February 14, 2005, edition of The New Yorker that the "limited" rendition program under President Clinton expanded after September 11, 2001, "beyond recognition":

Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition -- becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, "an abomination." What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects -- people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants -- came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms "illegal enemy combatants."

From the February 5 Senate Intelligence Committee hearings (video at 37:48):

BOND: Mr. Panetta, to clarify what you just said, the United States has sent individuals to other countries for torture -- that's news to me. Now, I understand that during President Clinton's term there were approximately 80 renditions of terror suspects that occurred during your watch as chief of staff on -- of the White House. An official from Human Rights Watch was quoted saying Clinton policies in practice meant torture. Do you have any comments on the renditions which occurred during your watch as chief of staff?

PANETTA: Well, I think you have to define what kind of renditions we're talking about. Obviously, extraordinary renditions where I think the situation where we took a prisoner and sent him to another country for questioning and often times that questioning took place under circumstances that did not meet our test for human values. Renditions have been a tool used by this government over the years. Returning individuals to countries of jurisdiction -- Carlos the Jackal was taken and returned to France under a rendition. Others have been -- there were prisoners that we captured abroad that were rendered back to this country for purposes of trial. I think those kinds of renditions are an appropriate tool. I do not believe that we ought to use --

FEINSTEIN: Could you hold the microphone, it's just gone off.

PANETTA: I've got this, I've got it. I do not believe that, and as I said, under the executive order, I do not believe we ought to use renditions for the purpose of sending people to black sites and not providing the kind of oversight that I believe is necessary. Now, having said that, if we capture a high-value prisoner, I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily, to be able to debrief that individual, and then to make sure that that individual is properly incarcerated, so that we can maintain control over that individual. And I think that, frankly, I think that's provided for under the executive order.

BOND: Are you -- to clarify further, are you saying that the government has sent people to other countries for torture, and what do you mean by that?

PANETTA: I have not been officially briefed on any of the extraordinary renditions as to what actually took place. My understanding is that there were black sites. My understanding is we used those during that time. Some of these were permanent facilities. What took place with those individuals I don't have any direct evidence of. But obviously there were indications that those countries did not use the kind of, or meet the kind of, human values that we would extend to prisoners. So it's for those reasons that the president acted to prevent extraordinary renditions.

BOND: Now, I would -- since you don't know about those, I would assume that would apply to the renditions in the '90s, when detainees were transferred to a third country, where they were executed. Does that qualify as torture?

PANETTA: Well, I think if in the renditions where we return an individual to the jurisdiction of another country, and then they exercise, you know, their right to try that individual and to prosecute him under their laws, I think that is an appropriate use of rendition.

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Randll Reese Besch - 2/13/2009

Whether 'rendition' or 'extraordinary rendition' if they violate the Constitution/Bill of Rights of this country and also international law then it doesn't matter if a president has signed off on it. It is still illegal and criminal and cannot be tolerated or allowed to remain untouched by our legal system. Otherwise we are liars and hypocrites in all things and our words mean nothing but sick jokes.

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