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US Law Doesn’t Bar ‘Rendition Operations,’ CIA Lawyer Says in Law Review Article

Posted Nov 5, 2010 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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U.S. laws don’t prevent the government from forcibly transferring terrorism suspects to third countries, even when they could be subjected to torture there, a CIA lawyer says.

CIA assistant general counsel Daniel Pines defends the legality of “rendition operations” in an article that will be published in the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, according to the Washington Post blog SpyTalk.

"Despite the numerous complaints and criticisms of rendition operations, U.S. law provides surprisingly few legal restrictions, and in the vast majority of situations no practical limitations, on the ability of the United States government to engage in rendition operations, whether to the U.S. or elsewhere," he writes.

"The only real restrictions are that the United States cannot itself torture the individual, subject the person to cruel and unusual punishment, or transfer him or her from a place where the United States maintains occupation or is engaged in armed conflict. In reality, however, even these restrictions impose few actual limitations on rendition operations." He cautions that the views in the article are his own and should not be attributed to the CIA.

The SpyTalk blog contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for comment. Ben Wizner, litigation director for the ACLU’s National Security Project, said the article “does not even address the most extreme form of rendition carried out under the Bush administration: renditions to U.S.-run ‘black-site’ prisons, where Americans, not foreign intelligence services, were the jailers and the torturers.”

Wizner also said that many of the legal questions relating to Bush administration rendition policies remain unanswered because courts have dismissed the cases on broad secrecy and immunity claims.

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