On August 5, 1998, an Arab-language newspaper in London published a letter from the International Islamic Front for Jihad, in which it threatened retaliation against the U.S. for the Albanian operation—in a “language they will understand.” Two days later, the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up, killing two hundred and twenty-four people.
The U.S. began rendering terror suspects to other countries, but the most common destination remained Egypt. The partnership between the American and the Egyptian intelligence services was extraordinarily close: the Americans could give the Egyptian interrogators questions they wanted put to the detainees in the morning, Scheuer said, and get answers by the evening. The Americans asked to question suspects directly themselves, but, Scheuer said, the Egyptians refused. “We were never in the same room at the same time.”
Scheuer claimed that “there was a legal process” undergirding these early renditions. Every suspect who was apprehended, he said, had been convicted in absentia. Before a suspect was captured, a dossier was prepared containing the equivalent of a rap sheet. The C.I.A.’s legal counsel signed off on every proposed operation. Scheuer said that this system prevented innocent people from being subjected to rendition. “Langley would never let us proceed unless there was substance,” he said. Moreover, Scheuer emphasized, renditions were pursued out of expedience—“not out of thinking it was the best policy.”
Since September 11th, as the number of renditions has grown, and hundreds of terrorist suspects have been deposited indefinitely in places like Guantánamo Bay, the shortcomings of this approach have become manifest. “Are we going to hold these people forever?” Scheuer asked. “The policymakers hadn’t thought what to do with them, and what would happen when it was found out that we were turning them over to governments that the human-rights world reviled.” Once a detainee’s rights have been violated, he says, “you absolutely can’t” reinstate him into the court system. “You can’t kill him, either,” he added. “All we’ve done is create a nightmare.” BETTER BELIEVE IT!