Extraordinarily polite rendition

Print More

(HOST)Today Commentator Philip Baruth spoofs the recent revelations involving NSA wiretapping, and the CIA’s movement of prisoners around the globe. Here’s Philip.

(BARUTH) I guess it’s what a lot of us fear these days.

I’m heading over to Church Street for some chicken tikka masala,and suddenly there it is: the screeching of tires, the sudden scuffing of boots behind me, and then the sickly sweet smell of ether under my nose. Everything fades to black.

And then I wake up with my hands and my feet tied tight, in the back of a Ford van with tinted windows. The van is moving very fast.

Sitting on the seat in front of me are two men wearing black pants, coats, ski masks, gloves. I clear my head, and mumble, “Who are you?”

The two ninjas say nothing. I can hear a car outside beep its horn as the van muscles past, into the exit lane.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask, with a little more fight in me now.

At first they’re quiet, and then one says, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

It’s about three minutes later when the van slows down, and stops. The ninja on the right takes out a gun: I make the slightest sound, I’m history. And in the silence, I hear a voice ask the driver what his business is in Canada this evening.

Suddenly all of the pieces fall horribly into place.

When the CIA thinks you have crucial information, and they can’t get it legally here, they ship you to a country where the laws are looser and the interrogation techniques are stricter, places like Egypt and Syria. This is known as extraordinary rendition.

But when they think you have information that’s not exactly crucial, but that might be sort of be good someday, they turn you over to the Canadians. This lesser-known tactic is called extraordinarily polite rendition. Once I’ve figured that out, my blood-pressure settles down pretty quickly: I’ve had a few friends go through extraordinarily polite rendition and while it’s not pretty, it’s not fatal.

I can tell by counting the turns that we’re on Rue St. Denis in Montreal when the van jerks to a stop, and the two ninjas heave me out the door. I fall into the arms of two men who are also wearing black, but normal black, the black leather jackets and pants and shirts that every other person wears on the streets of Montreal.

“Watch your step, okay?” says the bigger of the two. “The ice here is tricky.”

The two Canadian intelligence guys take me to a Tim Horton’s, and when I say that I’m not in the mood for coffee and donut bits, they offer to take me someplace else, maybe for a smoked meat sandwich? I tell them, “I’m fine.”

Finally they come out with it. The CIA is concerned about a call I made a few months back to my friend in Indiana. Apparently I mentioned buying a compact disc by REM titled “Green.” They want to know if the CD has anything to do with environmental organizations, especially extremist groups like the Sierra Club. I tell the Canadians “No,”. “But it’s a really killer album,” I add.

So then we talk music for awhile, and I’m feeling better so I get some coffee, and then some donut bits, and we talk about what a shame it was they lost their hockey season last year to the NHL strike.

I’m having such a good time I almost forget that it’s a long cold way home, and that there’s no guarantee things haven’t gotten worse there since I left.

But that’s nothing new, it’s always that way when I head south from Montreal.

Philip Baruth is a novelist living in Burlington. He teaches at the University of Vermont.

Comments are closed.