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Outsourcing Torture

Saturday, March 19, 2005; Page A23

Although David Ignatius tells us that torture is "immoral and illegal" and "always and everywhere wrong," he somehow manages nevertheless to justify the practice of "extraordinary rendition" [op-ed, March 9]. Can any reasonable person believe that our government is transporting suspected individuals to faraway lands simply to more effectively interrogate them?

Ignatius is correct that no good information can possibly be gained by torture, but we continue to practice it anyway, as evidenced by the documents brought to light by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act. Condemning torture while rationalizing unjustifiable "extraordinary rendition" makes no sense.

Maher Arar was detained in 2002 by U.S. authorities in New York and deported to Syria, where, he says he was tortured. (By Jim Young - Reuters)

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-- Donald Broder

Studio City, Calif.

David Ignatius's defense of "rendition" is weak, uncertain and just plain wrong.

Ignatius uses as an example the horrific rendition and torture of "Syrian-born" terrorism suspect Maher Arar and quotes his intelligence sources as saying that what is "gained by transferring a prisoner to his home country for interrogation is emotional leverage." Unfortunately Ignatius conveniently ignores one critical point that underscores the arbitrary, unaccountable and authoritarian power being wielded by the U.S. government: Arar is a Canadian citizen.

-- Grant Longhurst

Vancouver, B.C.

David Ignatius asks us to picture the capture of Mohammed Atta before Sept. 11, 2001, and raises the hope that his "rendition" (probably to include torture) might have prevented the World Trade Center attacks. But this has the crucial virtue of hindsight. In reality, we can never know in advance who poses such a danger, and so we must spread a wide net. How many innocent Maher Arars is Ignatius willing to torture to find his needle in the haystack? The inevitable answer, once such tactics are permitted, is many such innocents, and that is the sorry state we find ourselves in now.

-- William S. Kessler


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