Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » December 2005 » How not to Get Fingered for an 'Erroneous Rendition'...

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12/09/2005: How not to Get Fingered for an 'Erroneous Rendition'...

"...The background here is that the CIA seems to be having a little problem with what the agency terms "erroneous renditions." That's when you pick up an innocent guy and oops! send him off to a foreign country for some of that "enhanced interrogation" stuff.

In practice, terrorism suspects are often rendered to countries such as Egypt and Syria, which are known not merely for enhanced interrogation (like "waterboarding") but for what we might call "super-sized interrogation": electric shocks, pulling out fingernails, all that old-fashioned stuff. And if you carefully parse Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent legalistic assertion that "the United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured," it's apparently still cool to render suspects to countries where they will be tortured, as long as "we" don't "believe" the acts legally constitute torture, or as long as U.S. authorities are not absolutely, 100% convinced that a detainee "will" be tortured.

But back to the case of the innocent college professor. It appears that U.S. intelligence agents at some point picked up a guy they identified as an Al Qaeda member. He was duly interrogated (you guess how). And when interrogators demanded that he cough up the names of other terrorists still at large, the suspect got revenge by rattling off a list of everyone who'd ever annoyed him, including one of his old college professors, who had really burned him up by giving him a bad course grade.

This is the kind of news calculated to send chills up a professor's spine. The law school where I teach employs a grading curve, so giving low grades to some students is inevitable. But if one of the students who gets a bad grade from me ends up as a terrorism suspect in the hands of the, ahem, authorities, how long will it take before he fingers me?

-- Rosa Brooks: Grading on the terrorist curve

Karen on 12.09.05 @ 04:48 AM CST

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