As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Destruction Terror And Mayhem

I love a news story that allows me to use an LL Cool J lyric. But this is very serious stuff.

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about its secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terrorism suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. The tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that video showing harsh interrogation methods could expose agency officials to legal risks, several officials said.

In a statement to employees on Thursday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, said that the decision to destroy the tapes was made “within the C.I.A.” and that they were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value.

The destruction of the tapes raises questions about whether agency officials withheld information from Congress, the courts and the Sept. 11 commission about aspects of the program.

Ya think?

It's interesting to note when this is coming up. A Senate committee has passed legislation that would limit CIA interrogators to all techniques not approved in the Army Field Manual. This would ban several of the procedures that would presumably have been on those tapes. Of course, they're ALREADY illegal, banned by international law, the Geneva Conventions, and a host of federal statutes. The tapes are essentially evidence of a crime, and worse, evidence of the results of the Cheney Administration's extreme theories of executive power. We are seeing these theories being heavily scrutinized in national and international courts. In London and American prosecutor stated that the US has the right to kidnap British citizens on foreign soil, and not just terror suspects but those accused of garden variety crimes. In the Supreme Court this week arguments were heard on behalf of dozens of detainees at Guantanamo, who have still not been given the right to habeas corpus and the ability to challenge their detentions in court. Here's the story of one of those unfortunate detainees, destined to a life in prison until the German chancellor stepped in.

Just months after U.S. Army troops whisked a German man from Pakistan to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002, his American captors concluded that he was not a terrorist.

"USA considers Murat Kurnaz's innocence to be proven," a German intelligence officer wrote that year in a memo to his colleagues. "He is to be released in approximately six to eight weeks."

But the 19-year-old student was not freed. Instead, over the next four years, two U.S. military tribunals that were responsible for determining whether Guantanamo Bay detainees were enemy fighters declared him a dangerous al-Qaeda ally who should remain in prison.

The disparity between the tribunal's judgments and the intelligence community's consensus view that Kurnaz is innocent is detailed in newly released military and court documents that track his fate. His attorneys, who sued the Pentagon to gain access to the documents, say that they reflect policies that result in mistreatment of the hundreds of foreigners who have been locked up for years at the controversial prison.

These are all part of the same dysfunction. Kangaroo courts. Extraordinary rendition. Detention without charges. Torture. Indefinite imprisonment. And now, as these practices become gradually discredited, the evidence is buried. And we don't even know who authorized it. From the NY Times report:

Two former intelligence officials said that Porter J. Goss, the director of the agency at the time, was not told that the tapes would be destroyed and was angered to learn that they had been.

Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Goss declined to comment on the matter.

In his statement, General Hayden said leaders of Congressional oversight committees had been fully briefed about the existence of the tapes and told in advance of the decision to destroy them. But the two top members of the House Intelligence Committee in 2005 said Thursday that they had not been notified in advance of the decision to destroy the tapes.

You can try to blot out the evidence, but blotting out the stain on the American character will be impossible. Of everything we've lost over the past seven years, this is by far the worst.

There ought to be jail cells ready and waiting for every one of these guys on January 20, 2009.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,