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Kidnapping, Torture, and Reflections on Alleged “American Values”

Mish is on fire today with excellent posts. Here, Mish reports on the horrifying story of what the CIA did in kidnapping the wrong man, a German citizen Khalid El-Masri, and the CIA’s subsequent torture and abuse of him. Our court system failed too, citing "national security" grounds to throw out Khalid El-Masri’s case against the CIA.  (Sounds like a specious excuse to me as sensitive information wouldn’t have to be made public.) – Ilene 

Kidnapping, Torture, and Reflections on Alleged "American Values"

Courtesy of Mish 

I do not agree with using torture, nor do I believe the end justifies the means. The problem with both is that others can act the same way.

If the US can torture to extract vital information, then why can’t Iran and every other country on the planet?

It is pure hypocrisy to think that the US has a monopoly on "justified torture". Indeed, there is no such thing as "justified torture".

This has been my position forever. I bring it up because of a post Barry Ritholtz made yesterday stipulating “Torture didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information”

“Torture [at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp] didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information. Everyone [at the CIA] was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work.” – Glenn L. Carle, a retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002

“The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003. It took years of collection and analysis from many different sources to develop the case that enabled us to identify this compound, and reach a judgment that Bin Laden was likely to be living there.” – Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled interrogators about the courier’s identity. …

Barry Ritholtz went on to say "Thinking that torture is wrong is not a liberal or conservative value — it is an American value."

I sure wish Barry was correct. Sadly he is not, at least right now. Both president Bush and president Obama have condoned torture.

Moreover, President Obama had a campaign pledge to shut Guantanamo Bay. Sadly, I report Guantanamo Bay is still in operation. On March 8, 2011, the Irish Times noted Guantánamo trials freeze lifted

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said the best way to get out of "the Guantanamo morass" would be to use the US courts.

"Instead, the Obama administration has chosen to institutionalise unlawful, indefinite detentions and to revive illegitimate military commissions, which will do nothing to remove the stain on America’s reputation that Guantánamo represents," she told Reuters.

There are still 172 detainees at Guantánamo. About three dozen were set for prosecution in either US criminal courts or military commissions. There were 242 detainees when Mr Obama took office. Many have been held there for more than nine years.

"The president’s ongoing commitment to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay holds," a senior administration official said.

How many lies can we take from Obama before we simply call him a bald-faced liar.

Kidnap and Torture of Wrong Man

Please consider US ‘Warned’ Germany Over Bungled El-Masri Kidnapping

With over a quarter of a million WikiLeaks documents coming to light today a number of previously stalled stories are being given new life, including the bungled kidnapping of German citizen Khalid El-Masri and his subsequent abuse in US custody.

Masri was kidnapped in early 2004 by CIA officials and sent to Baghdad and later Afghanistan, where he was repeatedly abused before officials finally discovered that they meant to kidnap Khalid al-Masri, an entirely different person with a similarly spelled name.

A 2007 State Department document revealed the US “warned” the German government against making any moves to secure the arrests of the CIA agents responsible for the kidnapping, saying any such move would have “repercussions” to the relationship between the two nations.

Despite the warnings the German government did issue Interpol arrest warrants for CIA officials involved in the kidnapping, though they dropped them a few months later. El-Masri attempted to sue the CIA over his torture in a US court but the case was thrown on “national security” grounds.

The El-Masri Cable

Harper’s Magazine reports on The El-Masri Cable

Over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday in 2003, Khaled El-Masri traveled by bus to Skopje, Macedonia. There he was apprehended by border guards who noted the similarity of his name to that of Khalid al-Masri, an Al Qaeda agent linked to the Hamburg cell where the 9/11 attacks were plotted. Despite El-Masri’s protests that he was not al-Masri, he was beaten, stripped naked, shot full of drugs, given an enema and a diaper, and flown first to Baghdad and then to the notorious “salt pit,” the CIA’s secret interrogation facility in Afghanistan. At the salt pit, he was repeatedly beaten, drugged, and subjected to a strange food regime that he supposed was part of an experiment that his captors were performing on him. Throughout this time, El-Masri insisted that he had been falsely imprisoned, and the CIA slowly established that he was who he claimed to be. Over many further weeks of bickering over what to do, a number of CIA figures apparently argued that, though innocent, the best course was to continue to hold him incommunicado because he “knew too much.” Dana Priest furnished the core of this account in an excellent 2005 Washington Post story. Other aspects have been slowly confirmed by German criminal investigators. By studying El-Masri’s hair and skin samples, for instance, they were able to confirm allegations that he was drugged and subjected to a bizarre starvation regimen. Throughout this process, El-Masri’s account of what transpired, part of which he wrote up as an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, has consistently been vindicated.

What kind of pathetic judge tosses out kidnapping and torture crimes for the sake of "national security"?

These are things we know about. We also know about torture in Iraq which the president campaigned to disclose, then changed his mind.

Of course Vice President Cheney has long condoned torture and did not even have the decency to apologize for the kidnapping and torture of the wrong man. Instead, the CIA held an innocent man because he "knew too much".

Cheney is a pathetic human being for openly condoning torture, but at least he was honest. President Obama is a liar and a hypocrite when it comes to torture.

Thus, as much as I would like to agree with Ritholtz, I can’t. However, I can easily modify his statement to make it correct: "Thinking that torture is wrong is not a liberal or conservative value – it is simply a value."

It is high time the US disavow torture and charge those doing it with crimes. Just don’t expect that anytime soon given that kidnapping, torture, and holding people for 9 years without trial are actions openly condoned by Republican and Democrats presidents alike. That is the sad state of affairs of alleged "American Values".

Mike "Mish" Shedlock


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