Fran Fragos Townsend Admits We Render to Torture in Egypt

Well, perhaps not quite. When Mona Eltahawy explicitly described what many of us learned from Jane Mayer–Hosni Mubarak’s appointed Vice President, Omar Suleiman, has a long history of cooperating with us in accepting and torturing people rendered to Egypt–and when Wolf asks whether this went on in the Bush Administration (it dates back to the Clinton Administration), Townsend explains the best known example is that of Maher Arar. Wolf corrects her that that involved Syria.

Perhaps Townsend was thinking of that other best known rendition, when we sent Ibn Sheikh al-Libi to Egypt to be tortured so he would tell his torturers–presumably people working for Suleiman–what they wanted to hear: that there were ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

You gotta wonder whether the US would take some comfort in having the guy we outsourced torture to running Egypt.

  1. Peterr says:

    You gotta wonder whether the US would take some comfort in having the guy we outsourced torture to running Egypt.

    Actually, I think this would worry The Powers That Be in the US, as it would place in Suleiman’s hand a nice little file that TPTB would rather not have appear splashed across the headlines of websites around the world.

    That assumes, of course, that TPTB have thought this through more than one step ahead of things.


    OK, I withdrawn my first comment.

    • MadDog says:

      Even if the TPTB in the US had thought ahead, I’m sure their first bet is on order over chaos.

      In that case, a continued military dictatorship run by Omar Suleiman and military cronies presents the quickest path to order and therefore, an acceptable outcome.

      Democracy however, leans toward continued chaos, so while the TPTB in the US, in the form of the Obama Administration, may pay lipservice to this “ideal outcome”, they’re not putting any money down on it.

      As for the Repugs, they’ll bet the house on “order”.

  2. Peterr says:

    You’re absolutely right on the “we’ll take order over democracy” choice, but I’ll still bet that TPTB haven’t thought this through.

    See Iran, 1977.

    • MadDog says:

      I’m betting Hillary’s appearances on all the Sunday news shows will be something like this:

      Shorter Obama Administration: “Alex, we’ll take fence-sitting for $100. No, on second thought make that fence-sitting for $1.”

      • Peterr says:

        I don’t know about that.

        If the folks at State have read the tealeaves and concluded that Mubarak is toast, Hilary’s appearances tomorrow could be the chosen method to roll out a change in policy.

        The career folks at the middle eastern desks at Foggy Bottom are not getting much sleep tonight. For that matter, they’ve gotten damn little sleep all week. The US ambassador in Egypt is one of those career Foreign Service people, for which I am very, very grateful right about now.

        • MadDog says:

          I’m less than hopeful about the Obama Administration’s choice of tactics.

          If we were to assume, as you proffered, that the Obama Administration might indeed believe that Mubarak is toast, then what would the Obama Administration have for recent case studies on effecting “regime change”?

          As you mentioned earlier, one of them is Iran, and how the US and European countries attempted to facilitate “regime change” there. Not at all what they desired as an end result.

          The other case study in recent times has been Iraq, and that too has been less than what the US and European countries desired as an outcome.

          I can see both of these recent case studies on effecting “regime change” having an enormous impact on the foreign policy wonks leading to an aversion in playing cook to Egypt’s stew.

          I’m still of the opinion that the Obama Administration will pay some lipservice to democratic goals while avoiding having to take a specific stand, and instead, stand mostly on the sidelines in the near term until a clearer picture arises from the Egyptians themselves.

          I think the Obama Administration will “consult” with both the existing Egyptian power structure as well as some of the democracy outsiders like Mohamed El Baradei, but leave the “push” up to the Egyptians themselves.

          • MadDog says:

            My guess as to the current Obama Administration’s choice of tactics seems to be confirmed with this NYT piece tonight:

            …Mr. Mubarak, who was vice president himself when he took power after the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat, had until now steadfastly refused pressure to name any successor, so the move stirred speculation that he was planning to resign.

            That, in turn, raised the prospect of an unpredictable handover of power in a country that is a pivotal American ally — a fear that administration officials say factored into President Obama’s calculus not to push for Mr. Mubarak’s resignation, at least for now

            (My Bold)

            Fence-sitting until the smoke clears.

            • MadDog says:

              And this NYT piece by David Sanger and Helene Cooper adds the superglue to my guess:

              Obama Presses for Change but Not a New Face at the Top

              …According to senior administration officials at the meeting, Mr. Obama warned that any overt effort by the United States to insert itself into easing Mr. Mubarak out, or easing a successor in, could backfire. “He said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events,” said a senior administration official, who like others, would not speak for attribution because of the delicacy of the discussions.

              The administration’s restraint is also driven by the fact that, for the United States, dealing with an Egypt without Mr. Mubarak would be difficult at best, and downright scary at worst…

  3. phred says:

    Thanks for the clip EW. Watching Fran Townsend squirm sure was fun. I think that may be the first time she has been on-air with someone unequivocally calling out the United States for torture. Maybe if Wolf practices he can learn to pronounce the word “torture” and apply it appropriately in the future.

    • greenharper says:

      That clip of Fran Fragos Townsend (starts at about .50) is surreal. She can’t say the name of Maher Arar. She gets Arar’s facts wrong – he was trying to get home TO Canada when the U.S. picked him up. Yes, Fran, there was indeed a lot of litigation about what happened. What happened was torture.

      Good of Blitzer to correct FFT that the U.S. rendered Maher Arar to Syria, not to Egypt, of course. But how chilling, the way he and she both seem to assume that American listeners in general know of the crimes committed against Arar and find them a ho-hum. FFT matter-of-factly admits to a long history of U.S. renditions to Egypt, but stumbles over her words in mentioning its human rights problems.

      Blitzer should have questioned FFT on this: WHY does the U.S. have a “long history” of rendering people to Egypt, i.e., kidnapping and forcibly transporting them there, while at the same time seeking assurances that the Egyptian gov’t wouldn’t torture them? That, it seems to me, is what FFT’s tongue-twist meant.

      We weren’t kidnapping people and flying them to Egypt for the beaches.

      Sad to see what this former U.S. Department of Justice attorney has come to.

  4. yellowsnapdragon says:

    Townsend’s matter of fact-ness about the outsourcing of torture was disturbing. Well, of course we snatched men off the street and shipped them to dark, fetid corridors in Egypt to have their genitals electrocuted.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    My, how awkward it would be for the USG if a more liberal regime were to assume power in Egypt and disown the tortured past of its predecessor. It might even invest in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document and publish wrongs committed in the people’s name, at leas their government’s, in an effort to say, apropos of Poe’s raven, “Nevermore”.

    What a wonderful world it would be – for its citizens and those subject to power rather than just for those wielding it.

  6. bobschacht says:

    Townsend isn’t worried. After all, we’re looking forward not backward, aren’t we?

    Meanwhile, Obama & Clinton dither because whatever beast comes galloping out of Egypt in the next month, they want America to be riding it.

    Bob in AZ

    • croghan27 says:

      Meanwhile, Obama & Clinton dither because whatever beast comes galloping out of Egypt in the next month, they want America to be riding it.

      It is obvious that the western governments and the US are whole heartedly supporting the next-to-current or last happening:

      a genuine uprising: ‘we support democracy.’
      Mubarak must go: Change is needed.
      the police disappear: Moderation is advised in dealing with the protesters
      a torturer is appointed VP: We support Mubarak.

      For the Leader of the Free World this leader is doing a lot of following.

  7. wavpeac says:

    I thought doooo dah head looked ghostly white after she said this. And of course, I wondered if any one else saw it and hoped it mattered!!!

  8. fatster says:

    O/T Switzerland took the prisoners to prevent lawsuits
    In order to avoid one billion claim against the Swiss bank giant UBS, Switzerland went to stop the Swedish nuclear adventure in Iran and receive prisoners from Guantanamo base.

  9. b2020 says:

    Suleiman – Too Bloody connected Too Fail.

    Obama must be looking forward so strenuously, it might well snap his neck.

  10. Mary says:

    What a spinner she is. There’s no way that she “forgot” not only the al-Libi kidnap. The thing is, he didn’t begin to meet ANY CONCEIVABLE definition of “rendition.” That’s one reason they duck him so completely. Rendition has to have some jurisdicional basis of some kind.

    No one has ever come up with Mary Jo White gave to Scheuer as her professional legal opinion on how he could engage in worldwide kidnap and shipment to torture and executions and disappeaerances – but it would be nice to have that happen at some point. Until then, everything points to the fact that they were using the tie of the kidnap victims having either citizenship with the country to which they were shipped, or having outstanding warrants/indictments against them in the country to which they were shipped, to somehow call what was going on “rendition” (contrary to legally accepted norms on rendition).

    Al-Libi didn’t meet any such norms. IIRC, Cloonan mentioned the CIA trying to make some kind of claim that al-Libi was Egyptian when they took him from the FBI, even though they were advised that was incorrect and he was Libyan (luckily for Kappes et al – they had other pals to hand him off to later where they could use CIA pal Mary Jo’s exonerations from criminal liability when they finally made the “right” shipment to permanent disappearance)

    Interesting, as well, that a lawyer and “Homeland Security Advisor” who was such tight buds with Comey (the guy who filed the requisite state’s secrets claims in the Arar lawsuit) not only confused where Arar was sent, but also lost track not only of al-Libi but also of the Italian cleric, Abu Omar, whose kidnap to torture in Egypt resulted in multiple convictions of US CIA operatives – convictions where the Italian Court of Appeals in Dec, 2010, actually INCREASED the sentences given by the trial court. (Amazing how many of the links you might try to click through on that story go to page not found errors, even though it’s only a month or so old).

    How do you so conveniently forget – Wolf or Townsend – that our CIA worked with Suleiman on a case that ended up in the convictions of 20ish or so members of the CIA and IIRC, at least one member of the military who was willing to participate in crime.

  11. Mary says:

    BTW – it’s “small world isn’t it” times that Suleiman, who is tied to the Albanian Returnees trials/torture/executions etc. is getting the nod in Egypt at the same time that Albania is having thousands take to the street over its govt killing protestors

  12. Mary says:

    It does that much more to insulate torture from consequence when Obamaco allows the chief torturer to be named as the head of state in reward for his torture assistance without any revelations of his torture role.

    All his “little” evils, of turning his back on torture bc it wasn’t politically expedient have grown and grown and they will just keep growning.

    Not a good man. Smart, in the self interested sense, but no vision and no understanding and no concern for what his self interest destroys and engulfs.

  13. eten says:

    Mubarak hasn’t run Egypt for at least 5 years. That task has been left to Suleiman, Mubarak’s wife and Mubarak’s son. Suleiman has been given the honor of now being a public figure, something he has intentionally avoided for many years. His continuing good health is now very much an open question. Which is probably why he didn’t want to be seen as a public figure for all these years.

  14. eten says:

    PeasantParty…It’s not up to the Egyptian people. It’s up to the Egyptian oligarchy. If the oligarchy wants him around then around he will be. It’s the same here in the good old USA.

      • eten says:

        They have no choice. Street theater is their only option. The oligarchy in the USA lets us vote and then forces a few of our elected officials to walk the plank and make it appear that “we the people” are actually accomplishing something. Not permitting a vote to take place and forcing the masses into the streets to express their unhappiness seems a far more honest way to operate.

      • Twain says:

        Maybe not this time. The ME is boiling and I don’t think the PTB over there know how to stop it without slaughtering people in the streets. Not very good pr.

        • eten says:

          Taking stock. 100 people have been killed. 3000 have been injured. 500 are missing….most of them women. The Israelis want Mubarak to remain in power. So does Abu Mazen (Abbas) and the Saudi Kings. The Egyptian army has done nothing to overtly support the “revolution.” If the protestors can keep the banks (financial sector) shut down for another 5 days, maybe, just maybe, this revolution can succeed.

  15. canadianbeaver says:

    Said it earlier, so hope this isn’t a repeat. This afternoon a CNN reporter had a live meeting/interview in Alexandria with protest leaders. These people were not poor, underpriveleged Egyptians. Looked fairly well off, and had a nice apartment where they all (fairly well dressed)met. These people said they were the leadership of the revolt, using Twitter, Facebook, etc, etc. Um. So how did the almost 60% of Egyptians that barely have food much less internet, find out about this protest? One of them said, they’ve been working hand in hand with the military from the get go. So, what this seems like to a cynic, is really a military coup disguised as populist uprising. Sounds like not the people wanted Mubarak replaced, but the military itself. How much change you figure this will really bring to the poor in Egypt? It certainly explains why the military is doing nothing to squash the protests.