I had not expected that Condoleezza Rice's defence of America's “renditions” would draw on the case of Carlos the Jackal to justify the policy of moving suspected terrorists around the world in secret. But in the full text of the statement she made yesterday before leaving the United States for Europe this is to be found: “One of history's most infamous terrorists, Carlos the Jackal, had participated in murders in Europe and the Middle East. He was finally captured in Sudan in 1994. A rendition by the French government brought him to justice in France, where he is now imprisoned.” The French government will decide whether to respond to the use of this famous case to justify current US anti-terrorist policy, but one can imagine Washington's delight at finding the opportunity to accuse Paris of once doing exactly what the US is now being criticised for. Dr Rice's defence is basically that “the captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice” and that therefore other methods have to be used, including transporting them “from the country where they were captured to their home country or to other countries where they can be questioned, held or brought to justice.” She says that such tranfers are not unusual and are within “the law of war”. Nowhere in her statement does Dr Rice clarify whether or not the United States is running special interrogation centres in Europe or elsewhere but she categorically denies that it uses torture or condones its use by others. Most of her statement deals with the policy of “rendition” (“transfer”) which relates to the movement of CIA aircraft through Europe that first aroused interest in what exactly is happening. Therefore although this statement is welcome as far as it goes, it does not go far enough. For so long as the President and Vice President seek to exclude the CIA from US Senate legislation that would specifically prohibit ill-treatment and torture of suspects by the US military there will be suspicion that ill-treatment or torture is an option whether used in the United States itself or elsewhere under its influence. This is the issue that Dr Rice, and the President, will eventually have to address.


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