WASHINGTON, March 5 - The Bush administration's secret program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation has been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials.
In providing a detailed description of the program, a senior United States official said that it had been aimed only at those suspected of knowing about terrorist operations, and emphasized that the C.I.A. had gone to great lengths to ensure that they were detained under humane conditions and not tortured.
Each of those countries has been identified by the State Department as habitually using torture in its prisons. But the official said that guidelines enforced within the C.I.A. require that no transfer take place before the receiving country provides assurances that the prisoner will be treated humanely, and that United States personnel are assigned to monitor compliance.
"We get assurances, we check on those assurances, and we double-check on these assurances to make sure that people are being handled properly in respect to human rights," the official said. The official said that compliance had been "very high" but added, "Nothing is 100 percent unless we're sitting there staring at them 24 hours a day."
That's why we want to send them to those paragons of perfect treatment, so they can get fair and humane treatment. Did any member of the press think of asking why, if we want prisoners treated humanely, we need to send them anywhere we need to get hollow promises that the foreign country will assure the prisoner's safety?
In the most explicit statement of the administration's policies, Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, said in written Congressional testimony in January that "the policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States." Mr. Gonzales said then that he was "not aware of anyone in the executive branch authorizing any transfer of a detainee in violation of that policy."
Hmmmm. Careful choice of words, don't you think?
Administration officials have said that approach is consistent with American obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the international agreement that bars signatories from engaging in extreme interrogation techniques. But in interviews, a half-dozen current and former government officials said they believed that, in practice, the administration's approach may have involved turning a blind eye to torture. One former senior government official who was assured that no one was being mistreated said that accumulation of abuse accounts was disturbing. "I really wonder what they were doing, and I am no longer sure what I believe," said the official, who was briefed periodically about the rendition program.
There you go, plausible deniability. We won't send someone to a place we likely believe they will be tortured. We aren't aware of anyone in the administration authorizing transfer in violation of the policy. All we need is an assurance from the torturer that the prisoner will be treated well. Bush must not believe in karma.