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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Careful Condi, Be Very Careful...

Originally Posted: December 11, 2005 -- 4:18 PM
Fool Boards Link: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=23412598


Coverage of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's various press conferences during her trip to Europe was very interesting. Earlier in the week, the language of her statements tended to be similar to prior PR attempts to attempt to claim the moral high ground on US torture practices while stopping short of simple, declarative sentences claiming we in no way use or condone torture.

By Friday, 12/9, the European audience and press corps tagging along weren't buying it and Rice attempted to focus the language of her statement a bit. She made the following statement: (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/july-dec05/policy_12-9.html)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances. The United States does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured. The United States has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured.

Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.

These simple, "unparse-able", declarative sentences could be VERY dangerous from a legal and political standpoint for those making them. Her repeated "does not / has not" structure eliminates any wiggle room for stating it might have happened (past tense) but is not official policy. She stated these things HAVE NOT HAPPENED and WILL NOT HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE as a matter of policy.

These things in fact HAVE HAPPENED.

What other word than "torture" would you use to describe the process of "waterboarding" a suspect during interrogation? If you aren't clear on what "waterboarding" is, it involves strapping a person to a board or table with feet elevated above the head then wrapping their head in cellophane, producing a near-suffocation sensation. Large amounts of water are then poured on the person's wrapped head, to complete the drowning simulation. Internal reports of the CIA inspector general confirm this technique has been used REPEATEDLY by the CIA. (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1322866)

What other word than "torture" would you use to describe the process used at Abu Ghraib of breaking suspects through ice-water immersion: (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/torture/etc/script.html)

Spc. ANTHONY LAGOURANIS: I remember the chief warrant officer in charge of the interrogation facility. He'd heard about how the SEALs were using just ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner. And they would give him— you know, they would take his rectal temperature to make sure he didn't die. They would keep him hovering on hypothermia.

NARRATOR: Lagouranis's unit was using a shipping container as an interrogation cell.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet and three private companies who owned planes involved in an alleged "extraordinary rendition" incident: (http://www.aclu.org/natsec/emergpowers/22207prs20051206.html)

According to the ACLU lawsuit, El-Masri, a 42-year-old German citizen and father of five young children, 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. El-Masri 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.

According to the ACLU, 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.

Separately, a group in Scotland is pressuring their local government to investigate claims that numerous flights of private planes from Gitmo have stopped in Scottish airports for refueling enroute to our secret prisons in Afghanistan and Europe. (http://www.sundayherald.com/53193)

After refuelling on Scottish soil, CIA detainees from Guantanamo are being flown secretly to Eastern European “black sites” where interrogation can take place in a more robust fashion than would be possible in America or anywhere else in the EU. The 33 known CIA jets do not identify themselves and freely break air traffic conventions. They fly where they like, when they like, and refuse to give passenger lists or flight plans.

The CIA has, however, admitted flying suspects to North African states like Egypt and Jordan where torture is routinely used in interrogation. Human rights organisations and the European parliament are convinced that the US has also constructed a gulag of secret prisons in Eastern European countries. An all-party group of MPs in Westminster will this week press the government to demand full disclosure from US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice when she visits Brussels in the next few days.

In short, Condi's comments are the most simple, direct statements of the policy the US should have on torture. If they were true, I would applaud the administration for its moral clarity. In reality, there is concrete evidence the United States is knowingly, repeatedly, intentionally violating these principles. That means we have leaders of our government and military who:

  • developed purposely vague policy directives regarding prisoner treatment
    to provide the "gray area" that might provide cover from prosecution

  • are aware of numerous incidents of torture

  • continue to lie to the American public about the entire issue

Now that Condi has gone on record with such simple, declarative language, I can't think of an easier starting point at which to begin prosecuting these people. I would think a first-year law student could handle the evidence and legal issues in this case.