Saturday, October 20, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Alan Dershowitz, and Extraordinary Rendition

I saw "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" this afternoon. Good movie. It's a 7 on the 10 scale. But instead of focusing on Elizabeth's continuing to learn how to run a country and the defeat of The Spanish Armada, it concentrates on a romance that didn't happen with Sir Walter Raleigh. And Cate Blanchett's clothes.
Raleigh romance begins at court when he presents her with a couple of Native Americans, a box of pirated Spanish gold, some tobacky leaves, and a box of taters.
Then they go into a situation we know as The Babington Plot. Several (Catholic Sympathizing) conspirators try to win the release of the (Catholic) Mary Queen of Scots, overthrow the (Protestant) Elizabeth, and set Mary up as Queen.
They fail. Which gets to my point.
Elizabeth's spymaster, Geoffrey Rush, excuse me, Francis Walsingham, gets his hands on some of the captured plotters. He knows there is a plot to overthrow the English government. He knows the (Catholic) Prince Phillip of Spain is probably involved. He knows there are other plotters running around loose, waiting to assassinate the Queen.
I'm going off Movie History here. Possible mistakes in my timeline.
Spain could be sailing over for an attack, with "the Inquisition in the bowels of their ships". Thousands of English subjects will die. Walsingham needs information from the captured plotters, and he needs it fast.
There's a torture chamber in the dungenon. What would you do?

This is the situation that Harvard Law's Alan Dershowitz was pondering shortly after September 11. There's a ticking time bomb set to go off in a major U.S. city. We've arrested people who know the location of the bomb, but they aren't talking. What do we do? He floated an idea called a "torture warrant", an idea that rightfully sent much of the free world into a tizzy. (see link above.)
So the bomb is ticking. What should we do?

What we do now is known as Extraordinary Rendition, i.e. the U.S. doesn't torture, but we have friends who do. We haul the suspects to Saudi Arabia.
We outsource it, a process that probably started with (ahem) the Clinton Administration. Here's a quote from Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies":
Snatches, or more properly "extraordinary renditions," were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government.... The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass." (pp. 143-144) excerpt thanks to Tigerhawk
What Dershowitz has proposed makes a lot of sense.

We're doing this stuff already. Like it or not. And it's being done with absolutely NO accountability. It should at the very least require some type of warrant, as in the Alan Dershowitz suggestion.
There's yet another movie out on this subject, simply called Rendition. The reviews aren't good. I hope that doesn't kill the discussion.

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