Tuesday, December 27, 2005

US embassy Nearly Admits Syria Rendition Flight

Welcome back from the Christmas break, and Happy Chanukah to those who are currently celebrating it. The Junkheap will probably be taking another extended break for the New Years holiday, but will be back to regular updates shortly thereafter.

Now, then. This is an interesting story. It seems that the US Ambassador to the UK, Robert Tuttle, first had one slip of the tongue regarding the practice of rendition especially relating to one case in particular, then backtracked on his statement and still left the door open to the existence of rendition. Nice. I believe this is known as the "that never happened! And it wasn't that bad!" defense...

The US embassy in London was forced to issue a correction yesterday to an interview given by the ambassador, Robert Tuttle, in which he claimed America would not fly suspected terrorists to Syria, which has one of the worst torture records in the Middle East. A statement acknowledged media reports of a suspect taken from the US to Syria.

Although Mr Tuttle, a Beverly Hills car dealer and major donor to George Bush's re-election campaign, has been ambassador in London only since the summer, he is proving to be accident-prone. Last month he vigorously denied British media reports that American forces used white phosphorus as a weapon in Iraq, only to be undercut by an admission from the Pentagon the next day.

Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer of Syrian descent, says he was arrested in New York in 2002 and transferred to Jordan, then to Syria, where he said he was tortured. The US use of Syria for rendition sits uneasily with Washington's portrayal of the country as a pariah state. The Guardian has reported the CIA used British airports to refuel for rendition flights, which would contravene British law.

Asked if he knew whether the US had sought permission from Britain, Mr Tuttle said Ms Rice had maintained that rendition would respect each country's sovereignty. His reply would seem to imply the US had sought permission, possibly leaving the British government open to challenge.


Mr Tuttle gave an interview to the BBC Today programme on Thursday for broadcast yesterday morning. On Friday, the US embassy returned to the BBC with a lengthy statement of clarification, which was also broadcast yesterday at the end of the interview.

Asked by the BBC if the US dumped suspects in Syria, Mr Tuttle said: "I don't think there is any evidence that there have been any renditions carried out in the country of Syria. There is no evidence of that. And I think we have to take what the secretary [Condoleezza Rice] says at face value. It is something very important, it is done very carefully and she has said we do not authorise, condone torture in any way, shape or form."

Posted by crimnos @ 8:11 AM