Donald Trump

Will Trump Really Bring Back CIA 'Black Sites'? Even If He Wants To, He Might Not Need To

The Trump administration can always outsource its dirty work to allies.

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Frat antics, according to Rush Limbaugh
hexianfeng Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

A day after the leaking of a draft executive order—which appeared to indicate the Trump administration's intention to return to some of the most controversial and legally questionable George W. Bush-era tactics for interrogating detainees—all that's clear is there is significant confusion within the ranks of the White House over the order itself.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the document obtained by The New York Times and Associated Press did not originate from the administration, but three other administration officials contradicted Spicer's assertion. According to the Times, those officials "said the White House had circulated the draft order among national security staff members in the same way that a flurry of other pending executive orders had been distributed for review: with no warning and scant time to provide comments."

The Times adds:

One of the officials said an email chain showed that at 8:41 a.m. on Jan. 24, a clerk had sent the draft order as an attachment to several National Security Council policy staff members, who forwarded it to others. The clerk works on the administrative staff of retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff and executive secretary of the National Security Council.

The subject line referred to the memo as Package 0048. Addressed to the council's legal, counterterrorism and defense units, the email said: "Please review the attached draft EO. Comment/concurrence due by 10 A.M. Thank you." Neither the email nor the draft order said who, or which office, had drafted the order.

The typo-riddled document was clearly never intended to be made public, and as Buzzfeed reported, it was essentially the exact same draft order Mitt Romney's campaign had created as part of the 2012 Republican presidential nomineee's plan for his first 100 days in office—only the Trump administration version excised some language and changed some verbiage, such as crossing out the word "jihadist" and replacing it with "radical Islamist."

President Trump campaigned on bringing back harsh interrogation tactics and dismissed any concerns that things like waterboarding, forced nudity, solitary confinement in small boxes, and exposure to extreme temperatures constituted torture. However, his Secretary of Defense James Mattis has vocally opposed such tactics, and for a time at least, seemed to have convinced Trump that there were more effective methods of securing a detainee's cooperation.

In an interview with ABC News last night, the president said he would defer to Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo (who said during his confirmation hearings that he would would refuse to comply with a presidential order to violate current law and re-instate "enhanced interrogation" techniques). But, Trump says of torture, "I want to do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works."

Eli Lake raises an interesting point in a column for Bloomberg: Trump doesn't need to re-instate the practice of secret CIA prisons in foreign countries because "extraordinary rendition"—where harsh interrogations are outsourced to foreign countries on behalf of U.S. intelligence—has never gone away.

Lake writes that Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all relied on extraordinary rendition to various degrees, and although Obama ended the CIA black sites and forbade torture, he still had prisoners interrogated in "third-world prisons," and sometimes those prisoners were beaten and kept in squalid conditions. Lake adds:

Those partnerships will likely be the reason that Trump, despite his bluster, will not revive the CIA's black sites program. He simply doesn't need to. In a narrow sense, this will be a victory for human rights and the rule of law. But given the history of America's third-world allies in the war on terror, that victory is pyrrhic.

Trump hasn't even been in office a week and yet his administration is awash with leaks and confusion. The draft order in question here is certainly newsworthy and disturbing, but given the fact that secret renditions continued even under the more international law-respecting President Obama, the U.S.'s indirect involvement in abuse of detainees might see an uptick under Trump, even without black sites.

NEXT: It's Not a Lie If Trump Believes It

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  1. Yeah, its not like the Egyptian security apparatus went out of business.

    *looks through car battery catalog*

  2. The Trump administration can always outsource its dirty work to allies.

    Yes, but he might want to bring back those jobs to America because “American Worker(TM)” is hurting!

    1. You stole my joke.

      I could have told that joke as well as any Old Mexican.

  3. In an interview with ABC News last night, the president said he would defer to Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo (who said during his confirmation hearings that he would would refuse to comply with a presidential order to violate current law and re-instate “enhanced interrogation” techniques). But, Trump says of torture, “I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”

    I find this to be . . . not super disturbing? Pompeo has said he won’t do it, I’d be very surprised if Mattis said that torture was something he wanted to preside over, and Trump has said he won’t break the law (even though he thinks torture works).

    Circulating the draft EO was amateur hour, no question. If he actually signs something along these lines, I will be very disappointed (although I’m not sure it can be implemented). Or, perhaps this is more Trump theater, the distraction/setting a bar for some later maneuver?

    Trump hasn’t even been in office a week and yet his administration is awash with leaks and confusion.

    That’s a bit much. Given what he is trying, apparently, to accomplish, I think he’s off to a decent start. I’m not sure how much of the “confusion” comes from his actual inner circle, and how much from the permanent bureaucracy which he is trying to, what’s the phrase? Ah, “fundamentally transform”.

    1. I’m not sure how much of the “confusion” comes from his actual inner circle, and how much from the permanent bureaucracy which he is trying to, what’s the phrase? Ah, “fundamentally transform”.

      While the bureaucracy is not going to help them – and the Trump people should know that going in, so they should be extra careful about circulating memos like this one – most of the confusion seems to come directly from Trump or his team. In this instance there is an email chain the press has and Spicer still denies it. It’s just unncessary.

      1. “Awash with leaks” – I can think of none from his people, and maybe this one and one other from the permanent bureaucracy.

        “Awash with confusion” – again, what other incident shows confusion in his inner circle, rather than faux-confusion by the permanent bureaucracy and the hostile media?

        Jeebus. Its been four frickin’ days. We have years to exaggerate and mislead. What’s the rush?

        1. what other incident shows confusion in his inner circle

          All the talk about the number of people at the inauguration? However, I don’t disagree with your general point.

        2. Also, awash with leaks from the candidate that openly condoned torture on the campaign trail and was mercilessly savaged for it then to relatively no avail.

          Holy shit lets go kick Jonathan Gruber in the nuts again while we’re at it.

    2. In an interview with ABC News last night, the president said he would defer to Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo (who said during his confirmation hearings that he would would refuse to comply with a presidential order to violate current law and re-instate “enhanced interrogation” techniques). But, Trump says of torture, “I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”

      You should be disturbed – Trump knows torture works and he knows more than Mattis about how to fight ISIS. (Remember? During the campaign, Trump said he knows more than the generals.) And yet he’s deferring to Mattis? For what purpose? I can see where you might defer to a junior executive on the grounds of letting him make his own mistakes, see how he handles the situation, let him learn from his mistakes, but it’s not like he’s grooming Mattis for a promotion and you don’t give the kid a big damn project like defeating ISIS as a practice case.

  4. Let’s just recycle every story written during the last Bush administration. All these blogs aren’t going to fill themselves. Did Trump know about 9/11 in advance?

    1. Well, he wasn’t in one of the towers, was he? Dun dun DUUUUN

      1. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a picture if Trump and Osama Bin Laden together, and since of course don’t have a body…..

      2. Well, he wasn’t in one of the towers, was he? Dun dun DUUUUN

        You know who else was organizing communities in Chicago around the time the city got involved with Black Sites?

        Coincidence? I think not.

  5. As Eugene pointed out yesterday, the real shock would be that the black sites ever closed in the first place. You don’t need to bring back what never was gone.

    1. They call them White sites now, that way no one has to lie.

    2. I didn’t come up with it before he did?! Dang it.
      And my hat tip was snubbed.

      1. Eugene is first in all things. On a related note, he can’t get anyone to stay in a sexual relationship with him.

        1. *invests in fleshlight*
          Congrats on your ant guvmint fascist award, X.

          1. Thanks, man! I’d tell my parents, but according to Hihn they didn’t raise me right.

  6. The “let other people do my torturing for me, while I personally keep my hands clean” is my fundamental gripe with Obama: style over substance wins adulation from his base. Though I guess that means it’s more of a problem with his “base” than with him (power mad politicians gonna power mad).

  7. The Trump administration can always outsource its dirty work to allies.

    And let those countries be Tough and Smart? Why don’t you want to MAGA?

  8. ‘bring back’

    Such naivet? is just precious!

  9. It’s refreshing to see journalists openly against an administration instead of fawning over them. Keep it up, you only have 4-8 years before you have to go back to the old way.

  10. Appeasement did not work with Hitler and appeasement will not work with Trump. Both man are made of the same cloth. The sooner we accept this the sooner we can deal with the situation at hand.

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