Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Our Splendid Little Gulag

“All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way—they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies. (Applause.)” Those cryptic words, uncritically applauded at the time, were spoken by President Bush, our mobster-in-chief, in the 2003 State of the Union address. What that “different fate” entailed hasn’t been very much of a secret. Prisoners have been dying in American custody in Afghanistan since 2001 (or in “rendered” custody, as with the execution-by-asphyxiation of those of Taliban suspects in shipping containers provided to the Northern Alliance by the CIA’s travel agents). They’ve been dying in Iraq since 2003. But since 2001 the extent of the CIA’s prison archipelago around the world has only been hinted at, never quite nailed. Finally this morning the Washington Post’s Dana Priest hammers away, albeit with a foam hammer, with a string of semi-fresh revelations about the CIA’s secret prison network abroad, including “a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe”:

“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 is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It 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. The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held. Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.”

That’s spreading democracy for you. Don’t be too sure of the Post’s shining service in journalism. The paper is playing it both ways, teasingly letting us in the semi-secret with a few new bits of information while still playing adjunct to the US government’s illegal ploys. Here’s the ninth paragraph of the story: “The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation.” The claim of protecting the nations’ identities is inexcusable no matter what the “agents” say. This isn’t some crime story about a poor girl who got raped and needs her identity protected. This is the United States conspiring with other democracies to undermine the very essence of democracy in the name of protecting democracy, and the Post finds it in its ethical playbook to cover up for the government? Has Judith Miller already gotten herself a ghost-writing desk at the Post?