The origins and evolution of the CIA-based program for handling terrorism suspects, known generally as “rendition.”
It’s not often an author gets an unsolicited pre-publication stamp of legitimacy from the U.S. president, much less one who reports on human-rights issues. But when George W. Bush acknowledged recently the existence of a secret U.S. program to sequester terrorism suspects in overseas prisons, he effectively ended a longstanding denial. The president, of course, did not admit to torture, but journalist Grey asserts: “Those in charge knew the prisoner[s] would be tortured,” and “contrary to what was claimed later, the White House was fully informed.” His assertions are backed by extensive reporting that includes interviews not only with some of the subjects who experienced being “disappeared” under the CIA program and subsequently interrogated overseas under coercion, but also with agents who ran the program and even pilots who flew the executive-jet “ghost plane” that whisked suspects away. The author goes beyond the pat-answer criticism that, besides being immoral, torture is ineffective since people will say anything under extreme pain; actual situations, he points out, show that while it is possible to get someone to confess to almost anything, the result can, but does not necessarily, provide useful information and in fact may simply pollute painstakingly validated intelligence. Case in point: Sheikh al-Libi, rendered to Egypt for coercive interrogation, produced a confession that included a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, later proven false—as Bush has since acknowledged—even though it lead Colin Powell to ultimately discredit himself in testimony at the U.N. and became a central prop for the invasion of Iraq. Other rendition destinations discussed in Grey’s cases include Morocco, Uzbekistan, Jordan and even Syria.
Disturbing in the depth and detail of its evidence that outsourcing interrogation evaded legal issues and led to systematic brutality.