Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The gold standard

"I think the word of the United States has been as good as gold in its international dealings and in its agreements." --Condoleeza Rice

Well, it looks as though the price of gold is headed for another tumble:

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons
Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 2, 2005; A01

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe . . . .

The hidden global internment network . . . . depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.

The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

Hmmm, I guess if the Preznit promises to track down and "take care of" whoever leaked this classified information, we might actually take him at his word this time.

[T]he CIA has not even acknowledged the existence of its black sites. To do so, say officials familiar with the program, could open the U.S. government to legal challenges, particularly in foreign courts, and increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad.

Goodness! We con't have that, can we? Of course, I guess it hasn't occurred that the best way to minimize the risk of lawsuits and political condemnation for illegal and immoral activity is to, um, not engage in illegal and immoral activity.

Since [the immediate aftermath of 9/11/01], the arrangement has been increasingly debated within the CIA, where considerable concern lingers about the legality, morality and practicality of holding even unrepentant terrorists in such isolation and secrecy, perhaps for the duration of their lives. Mid-level and senior CIA officers began arguing two years ago that the system was unsustainable and diverted the agency from its unique espionage mission.

Oh, so it did occur to someone in the CIA. Oh good. There has been spirited debate on the matter. I rest much easier now.

It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas, according to several former and current intelligence officials and other U.S. government officials.

I think the English transaltion of this passage is that administration lawyers say it violates U.S. law to do this at home but it does not violate U.S. law to do it abroad. I don't think the latter proposition is true, but I am certainly willing to believe that the administration has lawyers who say it's true.

Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA's internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.

Ya think?

Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA's approved "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law.


No comments: