Irregular and Extraordinary Rendition Against US Citizens Still Going On

You’re asleep when they come for you. Or you’re relaxing on the couch. Or walking home on a quiet, unassuming night.

They arrive in a group. Dark clothes, maybe masks. They rush you all at once. Your hands, secured with zipties. Simple, hard to break. A blackbag is placed over your head. It blinds you, muffles the sounds you hear. The sudden darkness is suffocating; combine that with the fear and confusion, and it’s hard to breathe.

Maybe they stun you. Or they drug you. Or they hold something against your nose. If it smells sweet, it’s sevoflurane. Less sweet, but more fruity, it’s chloroform.

They bundle you up and wrestle you into a waiting van or SUV. Disoriented, scared, and vulnerable, you’re dragged across international lines.

You’ve just experienced extraordinary rendition.

Most people associate it with terrorism and CIA black sites across the world. But it has effects much closer to home.

Former fugitive Dan “Tito” Davis spent years on the run in Latin America and abroad. But his life as a fugitive ended when he was blackbagged and kidnapped from Venezuela and returned to the US to stand trial. He details his story in his new book, Gringo: My Life on the Edge as an International Fugitive.


5 Things You Need to Know About Extraordinary Rendition

1.) What makes it extraordinary

Rendition, in law, is a transfer of persons from one jurisdiction to another, and the act of handing over, both after legal proceedings and according to law. Most people know this as extradition, the surrender of an accused or convicted person by one state or country to another.

But when kidnapping or deceit is involved, you have what some term “irregular rendition,” but most people know of as “extraordinary rendition,” the extra-legal (meaning “outside the law”) transfer of persons. In laymen’s terms, kidnapping.

2.) How many countries participated in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.

According to The Washington Post, “54 foreign governments somehow collaborated in the program. Some of those governments are brutal dictatorships, and a few are outright U.S. adversaries.”

The Post goes on to say that “Their participation took several forms. Some, such as Poland and Lithuania, allowed the CIA to run secret prisons in their countries. Many Middle Eastern, Central Asian and European countries handed over detainees to the CIA, some of whom those countries captured on the agency’s behalf. Other states, particularly in the Middle East, interrogated detainees on the CIA’s behalf, such as Jordan, which accepted several Pakistanis. Several, such as Greece and Spain, allowed flights associated with the CIA program to use their airports.”

But clearly, the use of rendition by other government agencies can work outside of governmental collaboration. In Tito’s case, Venezuela was a non-extradition country, but people were hired to transport him to the United States against his will regardless.

3.) It works both ways

Most of the stories we’ve heard since 9/11 have involved either rendition to CIA spaces outside the US or to outside governments entirely to sidestep messy little things like “due process” and “fair and humane treatment.”

But rendition works both ways, and where extradition fails, irregular rendition sees fugitives returned to the United States. According to the Journal of Legislation, regarding a lack of extradition treaties with Central and South American countries: “This lack of cooperation and unwillingness to even consider extradition as a means toward a just resolution has caused some states, particularly the United States, to consider irregular rendition. Irregular rendition is typically considered to be the “abduction of an individual from one nation by agents of another nation” or by relying on private agents, such as bounty hunter and informants, to accomplish the same task.”

If that doesn’t work, other techniques include “luring” suspects into international waters.

4.) That it’s still taking place

The Washington Post reported that the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program is over. But according to the ACLU fact sheet on the subject, the practice continues “to this day,” something evidenced by the fact that a full writeup remains on the active ACLU website.

5.) That US law doesn’t particularly care

According to the Catholic University Law Review, “Although the use of an alternate method is sometimes necessary, it remains unclear whether abduction is a legal method for bringing a criminal to justice. One issue is whether the participation by United States officials or their agents, in the abduction of a fugitive from justice, violates that fugitive’s right to due process of law.”

But the author does ponder the greater long-term international ill will such activities might cause: “A more complex issue is whether these actions violate international law or the foreign nation’s sovereignty… When a government unilaterally abducts a fugitive abroad and the foreign government objects, however, a violation of international law and of the foreign nation’s sovereignty has occurred.”

Unfortunately for Tito and others who have been mistreated in this way, there may be little legal recourse. “To date, no court has found any government conduct so egregious as to require a court to divest itself of jurisdiction. In fact, various courts have rejected the reasoning articulated in Toscanino. Many courts have also reaffirmed the Ker-Frisbie doctrine, holding that a defendant’s right to due process is not violated if he is brought into the jurisdiction by irregular means.”


Noteworthy victims of Irregular Rendition

–John Surratt, 1866.

The United States exercised extraterritorial jurisdiction over John Surratt, a possible co-conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Law enforcement officers returned Surratt to the United States I 1866 after he had fled to Alexandria, Egypt.

–Frederick Ker, 1886.

A Pinkerton Detective Agency agent, Henry Julian, was hired by the federal government to collect larcenist Frederick Ker, who had fled to Peru. Although Julian had the necessary extradition papers, he found that there was no official to meet his request due to the recent Chilean military occupation of Lima. Rather than return home empty-handed, Julian kidnapped the fugitive, with assistance from Chilean forces, and placed him on a U.S. vessel heading back to the United States. [Now cited as part of the Ker-Frisbie decision supporting irregular rendition]

–Shirley Collins, 1952.

Shirley Collins was abducted from a bus station in Chicago, Illinois due to being a suspect in a murder case in Michigan. The authorities from Michigan went to Illinois and forcibly abducted the defendant to take him back to Michigan to get tried for the murder. He claimed that he was forcibly seized, handcuffed and blackjacked (being hit by a short leather club) by the Chicago authorities. Upon being taken to the Chicago police department he was denied counsel and blackjacked again when he refused to return to Michigan to be tried, this time it was by the Michigan and Chicago authorities. [Now cited as part of the Ker-Frisbie decision supporting irregular rendition]

–Francisco Toscanino, 1974.

Toscanino was forcibly abducted from Italy and taken back to America, due to being accused of intent to smuggle narcotics into the United States. Uruguayan police forcibly abducted the Italian, drugged him, and gave him to the American authorities. Once in US custody, authorities tortured him, through electrocution, starvation, and flushing his eyes and nose with alcohol.

[Check out this link. Exonerated!–Francisco-.html]

–Julio Juventino Lujan, 1975.

In Lujan, the defendant was abducted in a foreign country and brought to the United States to face prosecution for a narcotics violation. Lujan attacked the court’s jurisdiction over his person based upon the manner in which he was apprehended.

–Dan “Tito” Davis,

Davis was a fugitive from the United States for more than 10 years when he was kidnapped in Venezuela by paramilitary forces and turned over to the United States Homeland Security at the airport and flown to Miami and turned over to the US Marshalls for sentencing from his original drug charges.

Photo ofDaniel "Tito" Davis
Daniel "Tito" Davis

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