The CIA's controversial "rendition" program to have terror suspects captured and questioned on foreign soil was launched under US president Bill Clinton, a former US counterterrorism agent told a German newspaper. Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who resigned from the agency in 2004, told Thursday's issue of the newsweekly Die Zeit that the US administration had been looking in the mid-1990s for a way to combat the terrorist threat and circumvent the cumbersome US legal system.
"President Clinton, his national security advisor Sandy Berger and his terrorism advisor Richard Clark ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy Al-Qaeda," Scheuer said, in comments published in German. "We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture. Clinton said 'That's up to you'."
Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit that tracked Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, said that he developed and led the "renditions" program, which he said included moving prisoners without due legal process to countries without strict human rights protections.
"In Cairo, people are not treated like they are in Milwaukee. The Clinton administration asked us if we believed that the prisoners were being treated in accordance with local law. And we answered, yes, we're fairly sure."
At the time, he said, the CIA did not arrest or imprison anyone itself. "That was done by the local police or secret services," he said, adding that the prisoners were never taken to US soil. "President Clinton did not want that."
He said the program changed under Clinton's successor, President George W. Bush, after the attacks of September 11, 2001. "We started putting people in our own institutions -- in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. The Bush administration wanted to capture people itself but made the same mistake as the Clinton administration by not treating these people as prisoners of war."
He accused Europeans of being hypocritical in criticizing the US administration for its anti-terror tactics while benefiting from them.
Gosh, how'd the NYT, WaPo, LAT all miss this? Also adds context to the Bush admin's changes to established rendition practises. Those papers' gotta do some diging, or maybe they don't wish to besmirch the Clinton legacy as they attack Bush. Funny, because this revalation actually puts the Clinton admin in a positive light as to really trying to DO something to inhibit AQ.