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November 27, 2005

Defending Al Gore

A little at least. I hate doing this. But...

TigerHawk argues that Al Gore is being disingenuous on the subject of "extraodinary renditions," because he previously (as VP) expressed strong support for the practice. And now of course he speechifies against it.

The trouble is that there are two sorts of actions described by the jargon/euphemism "extraordinary rendition." One is an illegal snatch of a terrorist or other criminal. There's no arrest by the host country, no agreement for rendition to the US. We just grab him off the street and stuff him into a CIA plane (hopefully not one of the dozens outed by the NY Times as part of the nation's covert airwing.)

Thus "extraordinary rendition" means an extralegal rendition.

The second sort of extraordinary rendition is a clandestine, not-quite-legal (in the sense that typical legal formalities aren't observed) delivery of a terrorist to a third country, one which has a less squeamish view of the efficacy of coercion as an interrogation tool.

The quote TigerHawk has dug up (from Richard Clarke's book) shows him in favor of the first sort of extraordinary rendition ("He's a terrorist. Go grab his ass") but his speechifying on the subject seem to concern the second sort.

One involves taking someone (illegally, but justifiably) into US custody. The other involves delivering someone (again, somewhat illegally but justifiably) out of US custody and into the tender mercies of, say, Saudi Arabia's secret police. We have evidence no smoking-gn quote to prove he's ever been a strong supporter of the second.

Well, at least TigerHawk's quote doesn't establish that. Certainly, though, continuing to serve in an administration that admitted it had performed the second sort of E.R. is evidence of a tacit acceptance of the practice, at the very, very least.

But that doesn't advance the ball much. We already knew all of that. We've known for years that Clinton performed the second sort of ER, and no one in the liberal press made much of an issue about it. Far from it-- the practice was put forth as evidence that, contrary to public perception, Clinton really was "tough on terrorists."

And while Clinton did this without much criticism -- from Gore, from Kennedy, from the rest of the yowling, yapping puppies of the not-entirely-loyal opposition -- suddenly when Bush does it it's a major breach of international law and proof that we've "lost our country" and are degenerating into a 21st Century Gestapo state.

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posted by Ace at 12:47 PM

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