On many current political issues I agree with my friend Oliver Kamm, but now and again I don't, and an example of my not doing so arises from his column in today's Guardian. Oliver is arguing (also here) that, in certain circumstances, the practice now known as extraordinary rendition is defensible. It can be justified as a means of 'protecting citizens from international terrorists' in a sphere of activity which cannot be regarded solely on the model of law enforcement, because it is the site of a conflict - namely, the war on terror - that cuts across national boundaries. I will express two misgivings I have about Oliver's argument.
The first concerns the example he uses to challenge an 'absolutist rejection' of rendition or abduction. This is the example of Adolf Eichmann, kidnapped from Argentina in 1960 by Israeli agents. Two features of Eichmann's abduction, however, are important in the present context: first, that there was not a shred of doubt about Eichmann's guilt; and, second, that he was (even so, if you will) abducted in order to be put on trial - or, to express that differently, to be made subject to due legal process in a country that took seriously its obligation to afford him this.
Public concern about extraordinary rendition today exists because it is being used in circumstances where there is, precisely, doubt about guilt and innocence (Oliver himself talks in this connection of people 'suspected' of terrorist activity), and to move people to countries where due process does not follow upon rendition, and - most crucially - to move them to countries where they may be tortured.
This leads directly to the second point I want to make. Oliver makes it clear that he is not defending the use of rendition for purposes of torture; that he envisages it as a preliminary to due process indeed. What he is defending, in other words, is a 'cleaned-up' version of the institutional practice that - there is evidence for concluding - has actually been countenanced by the Bush administration. But this is not a purely philosophical discussion; the weight of political emphasis is very important. If the real practice of extraordinary rendition has been to accommodate or encourage the use of torture, that emphasis ought to be on condemning what's wrong with it, rather than on defending it in a purified version.