06 December 2005

Another Torture Suit.

Once again, a legal proceeding is revealing that the Bush Administration has committed gross violations of human and legal rights, in this case of an innocent German citizen, in the name of the war on terrorism.

Khaled al-Masri said he was taken into custody while attempting to enter Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003 and flown to Afghanistan.

During five months in captivity, he was subjected to "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," says his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. . . . U.S. authorities on Saturday night refused to let al-Masri into the country [to prosecute the litigation]. . . . one of his interrogators told him, "You might be buried here." . . . . German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the U.S. has acknowledged making a mistake in the man's arrest.

"I'm happy to say we have discussed the one case, which the government of the United States has of course accepted as a mistake," Merkel said after meeting with Rice.

The suit names as the main defendant former CIA Director George Tenet. In addition to torture, he claims his due process rights were violated and that he was subjected to "prolonged, arbitrary detention." He is seeking damages of at least $75,000. . . .
Amnesty International claimed Monday that six planes used by the CIA for renditions have made some 800 flights in or out of European airspace, including 50 landings at Shannon International Airport in Ireland.

Al-Masri, 42, was born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents and moved to Germany in 1985. The married father of five said that on New Year's Eve 2003 he boarded a bus in his hometown of Neu-Ulm for a holiday in Macedonia. At the border he was stopped by Macedonian authorities and his passport was confiscated.

He said he was detained by local authorities for 23 days and then handed over to what he believes was a team of CIA operatives. He then was flown to Afghanistan where he was subjected to abuse during four months in captivity.

In late May 2004 he was flown to Albania and then put on a plane back to Germany.

The trouble with having secret prisons not supervised by courts and extraordinary methods of interrogation, is that sometimes, you will pick up an innocent man like Al-Masri, and hardly surprisingly, he won't be particularly inclined to let bygones be bygones or keep quiet when you let him go after you learn that you screwed up.

A nation like the United States, practically speaking, is incapable of keeping these kinds of operations secret, and their existence threatens the standing of the United States in every manner of international relations, including, but not limited to, the war on terrorism. An international effort to apprehend people who may be a threat to the United States cannot be conducted effectively without international coooperation, and international cooperation will not be forthcoming when the United States uses methods that would have made the judges of the dreaded British Star Chamber, whose excesses the United States Constitution was drafted in significant part as a reaction to, blanche.

Once again, the Courts are going to have to decide whether to give the administration a blank check for anything it claims it is doing to fight terrorists, something that the U.S. Supreme Court has already told this administration that it does not have in this conflict, or enforce the legal rights of the individual.

Talk Left, which in turn links to the ACLU, which is representing him, pointed me to the text of the Complaint. More Talk Left analysis here.

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