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Panetta Hearing, Part Deux: Kit Bond is a Disgrace

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) is harping on CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta for saying that people were rendered for torture. “What evidence are you basing that on, or would you like to retract that?”

“The press has identified extraordinary renditions, but no one has quite defined it,” he says, offering a definition. First is “where individuals are delivered to black sites and questioned there … that kind of rendition will not take place.” The second: “where individuals are turned over to a country for question … there were efforts by CIA to seek and receive assurances where prisoners wouldn’t be mistreated … There are claims that that was not the case, but I can’t assess the validities of those.” Panetta says he’ll seek the same kinds of assurances, in concert with the State Dept. to “determine that they are in fact” followed upon, and adds that the forthcoming cabinet-level review will expand on how to get more ironclad assurances. The third kind: rendition “for a legal action” which he says should continue.

But Bond gets what he wants. “I’ll retract the statement,” Panetta says, to appease the senator. Amazingly, Bond says the facts about extraordinary rendition are based on “rumors and news sources … hearsay,” fueled by “liberal blogs.” This is a really disgusting display from the senior Republican on the intelligence committee. Are Maher Arar — who was kidnapped by U.S. officials and handed over to the Syrians for torture — and the Canadian government, which launched an official inquiry into his case, a bunch of liars? How about Khalid el-Masri? Is Jane Mayer just a trafficker of rumor? Is the Council of Europe?

Bond just used his position on this committee to try to force the American people to unlearn something that they have very painfully learned. He’s the one who’s sacrificed his credibility on this issue, not Panetta — but he did succeed in getting Panetta to retract the statement.

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