Pentagon plans rendition of Guantánamo prisoners
Detainees face torture in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen
By Kate Randall
14 March 2005
The Pentagon has requested that the US State Department and other government agencies assist in the transfer of many of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to prisons in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, senior Bush administration officials told the New York Times.
The plan calls for cutting the population at the facility in half by sending some detainees to other countries and releasing others outright. Those remaining would be left to languish indefinitely at the US-run prison.
The proposed transfers would be modeled on the “extraordinary renditions” carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency in the period since September 11, 2001. Former US intelligence officials have estimated that the CIA has carried out 100 to 150 such renditions since 9/11, snatching up individuals and flying them to countries where they can face indefinite detention, torture or death. [See “More evidence of US government’s torture by proxy”]
The rendition program was authorized under the Clinton administration and received bipartisan Congressional approval. After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush empowered the CIA to transfer prisoners from one foreign country to another without case-by-base approval by other government agencies. The proposed Pentagon transfers from Guantánamo, on the other hand, would require interagency authorization.
In a February 5 memo, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for support from other government agencies for the rendition of the Guantánamo prisoners, beginning with the transfer of “significant numbers” of detainees to Afghanistan, according to the March 11 Times article.
There are presently approximately 540 prisoners at the US-run detention facility, down from a peak of around 750. Of these, 146 have been released and 65 have been transferred to other countries, including to Pakistan, Britain, France, Russia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Since 9/11, the Bush administration has asserted that it has the right to indefinitely detain individuals it has labeled “enemy combatants”—without charges and without access to legal counsel. The administration claims these detainees are not prisoners of war and therefore are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. Government officials have further contended that US laws—including those guaranteeing access to US courts—do not apply at Guantánamo because it is not on US soil.However, a series of recent judicial decisions have posed a dilemma for the Bush administration.