Bet you thought I’d be writing about the NSA stuff. Don’t worry, I’ll get there. But first I wanted to highlight a different abuse of power by the administration that hasn’t gotten as much attention: extraordinary rendition, or basically kidnapping and torture. The practice involves US agents kidnapping foreign nationals in other countries (often European) and secretly transporting them to “black sites,” where the are suspects are held incommunicado and subjected to torture and other inhumane treatment.
Last Friday the ACLU went into federal court on behalf of one victim of this repugnant practice. Khalid El-Masri is a 42-year-old German citizen and father of five young children, who was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia. He was detained incommunicado, beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation. He was forbidden from contacting a lawyer or any member of his family. After several months of confinement in squalid conditions, he was abandoned on a hill in Albania with no explanation, never having been charged with a crime. He returned home, only to find that his wife and children had moved, as they believed he had left them. (They have since reunited.)
According to the ACLU’s suit, soon after El-Masri was flown to Afghanistan. CIA officers realized that they had abducted, detained, and interrogated an innocent man. Tenet, former director the CIA, was notified about the mistake, yet El-Masri remained in detention for two more months.
In Friday’s hearing the CIA argued that the case must be dismissed because of the danger that “state secrets” may be exposed, despite the fact that many of the facts have been made public. (Hmmmm, for some reason that argument sounds familiar. Oh, right. It’s the one the Bush administration uses ALL OF THE TIME!)
If you want to read more about this practice or about this case in particular, check out the national ACLU feature on extraordinary rendition.
Sara in Philly