Why Citizen's Must Stay Informed

Via Daily Kos:

The remarkable Dana Priest delivers this horrifying story of the war on terror gone wrong:

In May 2004, the White House dispatched the U.S. ambassador in Germany to pay an unusual visit to that country's interior minister. Ambassador Daniel R. Coats carried instructions from the State Department transmitted via the CIA's Berlin station because they were too sensitive and highly classified for regular diplomatic channels, according to several people with knowledge of the conversation.

Coats informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries, and possible legal challenges to the CIA from Masri and others with similar allegations.

The Masri case, with new details gleaned from interviews with current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials, offers a rare study of how pressure on the CIA to apprehend al Qaeda members after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has led in some instances to detention based on thin or speculative evidence. The case also shows how complicated it can be to correct errors in a system built and operated in secret.

There is a very strong reason why the Founding Fathers were so adamant about the need for due process and the inclusion of the writ of habeas corpus in the Constitution. A state apparatus with no check or review will do things that are beyond the pale. As Justice Brandeis stated in his famous dissent in Olmstead:

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent . . . The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 479 (Brandeis dissenting (1928)

And so it is in the War on Terror. Extraordinary rendition. Torture. Prohibition of due process and judicial review. Avoidance of the Geneva Conventions. Declaration of a heretofore unknown status - unlawful combatants. All these things have been done by and continue to be done by the Bush Administration.

Priest writes:

Unlike the military's prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- where 180 prisoners have been freed after a review of their cases -- there is no tribunal or judge to check the evidence against those picked up by the CIA. The same bureaucracy that decides to capture and transfer a suspect for interrogation-- a process called "rendition" -- is also responsible for policing itself for errors.

The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials. One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said.

"They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association" with terrorism, one CIA officer said.

And how many of these "wrong people" were or will be tortured? If Dick Cheney has his way, many of them.

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