Daniel Benjamin tries to reassure me that the Bush administration won’t have the CIA send me off to Syria to be tortured, naming this myth number five about rendition:
5. Pretty much anyone — including U.S. citizens and green card holders — can be rendered these days.
Not so, although the movie “Rendition” — in which Witherspoon’s Egyptian-born husband gets the black-hood treatment and is yanked from a U.S. airport and taken to a North African chamber of horrors — is bound to spread this myth. A “U.S. person” (citizen or legal resident) has constitutional protections against being removed from the country through rendition, and there have been no incidents to suggest the contrary. In fairness, though, the ghastly case of Maher Arar — a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who convincingly says he was detained at New York’s JFK Airport, handed off to Syria and tortured — is way too close for comfort.
Not only is the Maher Arar case too close for comfort, but I don’t understand, in practice, what my remedy is. If, say, my little brother Nick got nabbed and sent to Syria to be tortured, he’d hardly be in a position to file suit — he be being held secretly in a Syrian prison. My dad or I might notice he’s gone missing and maybe Spencer could even rake some muck and figure out that he’d been sent by the CIA to Syria to be tortured and we could sue, thus availing ourselves of the “constitutional protections” to which Benjamin refers. But what if the administration invokes the state secrets privilege as they did in the Arar case? Then where are we.
Alternatively, consider FISA, which granted “U.S. persons” certain protections against electronic surveillance. Well, the administration just broke that law and when they got caught, congress seems inclined to respond with a combination of changing the law so they can do what they want in the future, and granting retroactive immunity to lawbreakers. Under the circumstances, I may have protections but they seem pretty worthless.