Sunday, April 26, 2009

They walk among us

Dr. Ernst Janning was a respected lawyer and jurist before he lost his way...

In response to David Broder's execrable WaPo piece describing bringing torturers to justice as scapegoating, and Michael Sheuer's fear-mongering WaPo tantrum that America is "a half-baked Third World country" if it stops perverting its principles in the name of security, here's a little piece originally published in the Asheville Citizen-Times in 2005. My editors found it shocking enough that they included a caveat. They ran it because I sent them two and a half pages of footnotes.
Outsourcing of torture will only wind up imperiling troops, undermining war effort

By Thomas Sullivan
April 9, 2005 6:00 am

Gulfstream’s executive jets are popular with U.S. intelligence agencies, and luxurious. More luxurious than destinations their manacled and diapered passengers disappear to, thanks to “extraordinary rendition,” also known as “outsourcing torture.”

For terror suspects en route to exotic prisons in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan, the tranquilizing suppositories are complimentary. (Note: extensive documentation for the information here is available by contacting Sullivan).

The Gulfstream V, tail number N379P (changed to N8068V, then N44982), Gulfstream N85VM (aka N227SV), and the Gulfstream III, number N829MG, have logged flights around the globe since September 11. Also, a white Boeing 737, number N313P. Many flights originated in Smithfield, North Carolina.

Allegedly, they’re used for extra-judicial “rendering,” a limited practice under Presidents Reagan and Clinton that’s become an expansive dragnet under a classified directive from President Bush. Apprehended (or abducted) “ghost detainees” are held in secret and off the record in a network of prisons from Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan. Some go to third countries known for abusing prisoners, where, we’re assured with a wink, they won’t be tortured.

The usually Bush-friendly Washington Times has condemned the administration’s “torture doublespeak” and violations of U.S. and international laws signed by presidents and approved by Congress. Nat Hentoff writes, “One of the CIA’s jets transporting suspected terrorists made 10 trips to Uzbekistan,” where according to Craig Murray, its former British ambassador, “ ‘drowning and suffocation, rape was used... also the insertion of limbs in boiling liquid... it’s quite common.’ Mr. Murray also … received photos of one prisoner who was actually boiled to death.” (The deceased, a Mr. Azavof, was apparently not a CIA rendition.)

German prosecutors have confirmed parts of Khaled Masri’s story. Detained in December 2003 at the Macedonian border, the German citizen was flown to Afghanistan, stripped, beaten and interrogated until May, then released without charge. He may have been mistaken for Khalid Masri, an al-Qaida operative. Flight records show that Boeing N313P visited Skopje, Macedonia en route to Kabul at the time.

Canadian engineer, Maher Arar, was detained while changing planes at JFK airport. Delivered to Syria, he endured 10 months of beatings, then was released without charge. Another Canadian, Ahmad Abou El-Maati, named Arar after two years of torture in Syria for possible al-Qaida connections. According to The Guardian (London), El Maati eventually “reeled off the names of everyone he knew in Montreal,” including Arar. Concurrent records show a Gulfstream, number N829MG, logged a flight along the route Arar’s lawsuit describes.

Italian police investigating the kidnapping of an Islamic militant in Milan have sought flight records for Gulfstream N379P. Italian and German prosecutors have not ruled out criminal charges against those involved in violations of human rights and local sovereignty.

Eight men have filed suit in U.S. District Court against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over their detentions in Iraq and Afghanistan. All were subjected to “torture and other cruel and degrading treatment,” which included “repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions,” according to the complaint filed by the ACLU and Human Rights First.

The Washington Times quotes Human Rights First co-counsel, retired Rear Adm. John D. Huston, former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, “One of the greatest strengths of the U.S. military throughout our history has been strong civilian leadership at the top of the chain of command. Unfortunately, Secretary Rumsfeld has failed to live up to that tradition. In the end, that imperils our troops and undermines the war effort.”

And it betrays those who serve honorably.

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed an amendment by Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts denying Iraq supplemental funds for extraordinary renditions. Markey notes, “The war against terrorism is a war against those who engage in torture. If we fight our enemy using the same inhumane and morally bankrupt techniques that we are trying to stop, we will simply become what we have beheld.”

It may take Abu Ghraib-like photos before leaders who bloviate about not needing “permission slips” stop these abominations in defense of inalienable rights. How many of the prison network’s estimated 10,000 detainees were terrorists before being imprisoned is unclear. What is clear is that people from Hong Kong to London, including the Islamic world, are reading about these “torture flights” and wondering, are Bush and company fighting terrorists, breeding them, or becoming them?
After the document releases this week, we now know for sure.

Michael Sheuer began his over-the-top column WaPo column today with yet another ticking time bomb scenario - this one involving interrogating Osama bin Laden. As I read it late last night, I thought I might find at the end of it that I'd been reading a "gotcha" piece mocking Americans who would breathlessly defend torturing prisoners. I had just finished watching "Judgment at Nuremberg" for the first time since I was a child. (After this last week, it was time.) I was shocked that the parallels between then and now were so vivid. Still, I was unprepared for someone writing in the Washington Post to audition so soon for the remake.

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