A recent report (.pdf) by the Open Society Justice Initiative provides new insights into the “extraordinary rendition” program the United States operated after 9/11, revealing just how widely the program spanned: More than 130 people were subjected to extraordinary rendition, and more than 50 countries cooperated. The report thus raises important questions about both accountability for past human rights abuses and the future of U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Renditions, or the international transfers of individuals without legal process, occurred before 9/11. But they were previously used to transfer suspects for criminal trial. After 9/11, rendition expanded in size and focus; instead of being brought to the United States or a foreign country for prosecution, individuals were transferred to facilitate their disappearance and torture. Under the extraordinary rendition program, terrorism suspects were secretly detained in CIA-operated “black sites” or transferred for interrogation to foreign countries known to practice torture. Often, individuals were subjected to both measures.
In 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order (.pdf) that ordered the closure of CIA black sites and banned torture by requiring that all interrogations by the U.S. comply with the Army Field Manual on Interrogation as well as Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.