Rendition in 2013

The Washington Post reports on the continuing use of rendition as national security policy tool by the Obama Administration.

Renditions are taking on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice.

Congress has thwarted President Obama’s pledge to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has created barriers against trying al-Qaeda suspects in civilian courts, including new restrictions in a defense authorization bill passed last month. The White House, meanwhile, has resisted lawmakers’ efforts to hold suspects in military custody and try them before military commissions.

The impasse and lack of detention options, critics say, have led to a de facto policy under which the administration finds it easier to kill terrorism suspects, a key reason for the surge of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Renditions, though controversial and complex, represent one of the few alternatives. . . .

Because of the secrecy involved, it is not known how many renditions have taken place during Obama’s first term. But his administration has not disavowed the practice. In 2009, a White House task force on interrogation and detainee transfers recommended that the government be allowed to continue using renditions, but with greater oversight, so that suspects were not subject to harsh interrogation techniques, as some were during the George W. Bush administration.

It was naive to ever think rendition would go away. It can be a valuable tool, particularly given the constraints on domestic detention and the limits (legal, moral, and otherwise) of drone strikes. But like any such tool, it is also subject to abuse and should be the subject of significant oversight.

UPDATE: Steve Vladeck critiques the Post story here.