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March 09, 2005

Comments

Nerdnote: Edward, the correct term for a native of Afghanistan is an Afghan: Afghani is their unit of currency. With reference to your letter to Director Goss, it hardly matters: it's a fairly standard mistake, and he'll know what you mean. I just, um... have to proofread. /nerdnote

Good letter.

Nor is this poor guy the only one:

The United States has still not provided any adequate explanation for four, and possibly five, suspicious deaths of detainees that took place in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. The first two deaths, which took place at Bagram airbase in December 2002, were ruled homicides by U.S. military doctors who performed autopsies. In the case of 22-year-old detainee Dilawar, the military maintained for months that he had died of a heart attack. However, the military changed its position when the New York Times obtained copy of Dilawar’s autopsy report, prepared by U.S. military physicians, concluding he died from “blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease.” The mode of death was determined to be “homicide.” Two Afghans arrested with Dilawar told the New York Times that they were held in isolation cells, black hoods were placed over their heads, and their hands at times were chained to the ceiling. They also alleged that they were forced to strip naked in the presence of female soldiers. A military spokesman at Bagram told the New York Times that the death of the other detainee, 30-year-old Habibullah, was ruled a homicide by a military pathologist, the cause being “pulmonary embolism [blood clot in the lungs] due to blunt force injury to the legs.”61 cite

Thanks Jes,

I realized after I sent it, but concluded the same thing...he'll know what I mean.

What really pisses me off about this one though, is the signal they're sending by promoting this criminal.

Good for you, Edward.

Good for you Edward.

One tiny nit, not with you but with The Post. The victim was in his 20's and the article's use of "young" and "youth" seems a little disingenuous, he'd be older than most the U.S. soldiers there. Has nothing to do with the issue of culpability of course.

The victim was in his 20's and the article's use of "young" and "youth" seems a little disingenuous,

From where I stand, he's a kid, Mac. A kid who deserved better regardless of the age of his captors.

The torture statute, 18 USC 2340A expressly applies outside of the United States:

"(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

(b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if -
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

(c) Conspiracy. - A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy."

Of course "it all depends on what the definition of 'torture' is."

He isn't a kid, by any definition. It's an emotional and counterfactual appeal that has nothing to do with the incident.

Thanks for that Katherine. For me, the idea that an American agent is not prosecutable because he was working, presumably, for America, in a facility run by another government (whose land we just so happen to currently occupy) is so lame it should embarass them anyway.

How old are you, Macallan? I'm 38, and I confess that I tend to see a 20 year old as a "kid" - though heaven knows I'd never have thought of myself as a kid when I was 20.

He isn't a kid, by any definition. It's an emotional and counterfactual appeal that has nothing to do with the incident.

And? If he were 70, then this would be OK? Or would we be guilty of being too emotional if we associated him with our grandfather?

Empathy is not a bad thing, in my book, Mac. It is relevant to me that he was in his 20's. It suggests he might not have the same skills of deception an older person might have had. It suggests he might be facing jail time for the first time and hence somewhat scared. It suggests he has known nothing but poverty and war his entire short life. And all of this suggests the CIA case officer is a monster for murdering him, regardless of who he might have known who might have known someone in Al Qaeda.

I'm 27. I'd call a 20 year-old a kid. Think of them as young, and a youth.

I'd call him a kid. And he would be always a little kid for his family like all of us, no matter how old we are, we always would be a little kids for our family.

"For me, the idea that an American agent is not prosecutable because he was working, presumably, for America, in a facility run by another government (whose land we just so happen to currently occupy) is so lame it should embarass them anyway."

Yup, that is a lame excuse. And even if not prosecutable, he certainly didn't have to be promoted.

oh, you are SO getting tortured for writing that letter.

Edward,

That's a great post.

oh, you are SO getting tortured for writing that letter.

That did occur to me...my response: bring it on.* Seriously, at a certain point these stories must raise anger, outrage, and calls for accountability. How else will those in power understand they work for us.

*Of course, ask me how much bravado I'll have if there's a loud knock on my door in the middle of the night...if I don't post for a few weeks and have left no notices, you will inquire with the NYPD, won't ya?

Thanks for that Katherine. For me, the idea that an American agent is not prosecutable because he was working, presumably, for America, in a facility run by another government (whose land we just so happen to currently occupy) is so lame it should embarass them anyway.

Especially since we tend to claim jurisdiction anytime an American citizen is killed anywhere (IIRC). Not to mention that we also claim the ability to tax people for years after they expatriate; and tax citizens who work and live overseas.

if I don't post for a few weeks and have left no notices, you will inquire with the NYPD, won't ya?

Hell, I'll stage an invasion. Last time we did this, we burned down the White House, as I recall. ;-)

I'll just activate the ObsidianWings Contributor Transponder (patent pending, von can you get on that?)

Hell, I'll stage an invasion. Last time we did this, we burned down the White House, as I recall. ;-)

LOL

sorry, but I had a mental image of Laura Bush trying to decide which Presidential portrait to save and choosing Clinton's.

Of course "it all depends on what the definition of 'torture' is."

Yes. Any odds on whether AG Gonzales is going to prosecute?

Has anyone gathered all of the torture information together in one place? Seems like we'd have quite a lengthy list (the following come to mind):

Abu Graib
Afghanistan
Gittmo
Extraordinary Rendition

Just a few bad apples, everywhere.

Do you think the use of the word "disappeared" is deliberately to recall the use of the same word to describe the victims of right-wing repressive governments & their death squads?

The technique of people just vanishing, fate unknown but imagined, has of course been used by many groups of differing ideologies but with similar attitudes, for examples see the book of Dr Zhivago, and refer to "Night and Fog".

Exactly how is this worse than the average frat hazing?

And? If he were 70, then this would be OK?

Oh stop it. That's embarassing, nothing I wrote justifies that.

"Exactly how is this worse than the average frat hazing?"

It might be the freezing to death part.

Oh stop it. That's embarassing, nothing I wrote justifies that.

It was a lead in question, not an accusation, Mac.

My overarching point was the value of empathy, not whether age justifies killing someone. Humanizing the victim here (via the only means we currently have, his youth) is important, IMO.

Pretty sure he was kidding.

It's more than the freezing to death part though. If a frat hazing goes awry, those responsible don't get promotions.

Um, yeah I was kidding. Just pointing out that Rush Limbaugh still has a job, millions of listeners, and plenty of advertisers.

I agree that humanizing a victim has value, I don't agree that it needs to be done with dubious emotional appeals. How old was the "newly minted CIA case officer"? Is it important to humanize him with "youth"?

Most cops are in their 20's, most soldiers are in their late teens or early 20's, and I'd be willing to bet that at 29 a random Jihad Joe would be considered one of the old guys hanging out in the cave.

I see your point Mac, but not it's purpose here. I'm not sure I care if the newly minted CIA case officer is young. He's not dead and can apparently expect a career in the CIA well into his twilight years. Humanizing the alleged criminal is fine at a trial, sure. Take him to trial and I'll care then.

But thank God, freedom is on theb march.

those responsible don't get promotions.

Is there any evidence that he was promoted because he was responsible for this incident? Or that those who promoted him were even aware of this incident?

Its weird. I feel like I detect a note of surprise in you're post Edward. I don't think surprise is warranted. This stuff isn't news these days.

Really after Gonzales' appointment no reasonable person could have been surprised to discover that torture of captives who might be our enemies is the official policy of the United States Government.

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Macallan: Or that those who promoted him were even aware of this incident?

If they weren't, they surely should have been.

no reasonable person could have been surprised to discover that torture of captives who might be our enemies is the official policy of the United States Government.

Very interesting. Since the official policy of the United States Government is that torture is illegal I would think that a reasonable person would be quite surprised.

Very interesting. Since the official policy of the United States Government is that torture is illegal I would think that a reasonable person would be quite surprised.

Yes, let's quibble over the meaning of "official" in the context of Frank's comment.

While I almost reflexively want to disagree Jesurgislac, I must agree that those who are responsible for promoting people who are involved in detaining alleged terrorists ought to be aware of one of his charges freezing to death.

If they weren't, they surely should have been.

Agreed. However, what bureaucracies "should" do, versus "how" they do things rarely seem to coincide.

A few bad apples.

CIA torturer promoted rather than punished.

I guess they just want more bad apples.

Mac- There is a difference between law and policy, that is why one is called law, and the other policy.

Sorry everyone. I just couldn't resist.

Since the official policy of the United States Government is that torture is illegal

Right now I think that, rhetoric notwithstanding, the policy is such that torture is de facto legal. I will change my mind when all those responsible are prosecuted.

Macallan: However, what bureaucracies "should" do, versus "how" they do things rarely seem to coincide.

True. It doesn't reflect well on the CIA either way: if they knew what he had done and promoted him, or if they didn't know what he had done because there was a cover-up. It's two separate issues, but neither one good.

It doesn't reflect well on the CIA either way

There is so much that doesn't reflect well on the CIA it is hard to know where to start.

Edward asked at what point did Tenet or whomever start approving secret rendition programs...?

The New York Times reported March 6 that George W. Bush was the 'whomever' and that it was within days of the September 11 attacks. Before that rendition was approved on a case by case basis; Bush's directive gave blanket authorization. The OLC and other torture-related memos/opinions were intended to give legal cover for what happened to prisoners after rendition or during imprisonment in U.S.-run facilities.

I don't have the link, but the article is
March 6, 2005
Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails
By DOUGLAS JEHL and DAVID JOHNSTON

20 isn't even legal age to drink in the states so I would say you're not fully an adult until you reach 21 and our government would seem to agree with me.

...unless it needs you to go, you know, fight a war somewhere.

"Too young to drink...but not too young to kill. Or die."

I'll repeat my earlier request, but does anyone know of a collection of all the torture information (from the OLC memos to articles on extraordinary rendition) anywhere (internet or not)?

Very interesting. Since the official policy of the United States Government is that torture is illegal I would think that a reasonable person would be quite surprised.

You might have missed it, Mac, but there was quite a lengthy discussion on this very topic here and central to that discussion was the point that it's very easy to maintain that official policy when the officials get to redefine the term under consideration. [See, e.g., the "What we're doing can't be torture because the US government's official policy is that torture is illegal" argument.] I think a reasonable person would be quite surprised if the US government were to acknowledge that it was officially violating its own torture policy; I think you'd have a much harder time rebutting the actual contention, were you so inclined.

Didn't miss it. Thanks though.

Edward asked at what point did Tenet or whomever start approving secret rendition programs...?

Edward, that would have been during the Clinton Admin.

Edward asked at what point did Tenet or whomever start approving secret rendition programs...?

I think that the right question to ask is, "At what point did the CIA stop acting as freelance criminals (supposedly on behalf of the United States)?"

Ever since the CIA was created it has been involved in criminal activity abroad and (apparently) at home. The laws written to control it are ignored. The obsession with secrecy keeps them from even noticing when their behavior is totally counterproductive. It has a history of making us hated and buying used information from people that a used car salesman would be embarrassed to associate with. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the United States would have been better off over the past 60 years if the CIA had never been created, yet we continue to 'reform' the CIA while letting them act like they are the Law, West of the Pecos.

I'm waiting for an article that tells me that the CIA didn't screw up a relationship, didn't foul up, didn't murder leaders, and actually managed to meet its goals.

I'm waiting for an article that tells me that the CIA didn't screw up a relationship, didn't foul up, didn't murder leaders, and actually managed to meet its goals.

NPR had a newsbite yesterday about how we have very poor human intelligence in Iran -- that is, practically no US spies in Iran, which is supposed to be a head-scratcher since Iran's society should be a LOT easier to infilitrate than Iraq. Lots of travel in and out, etc. So that would be a case in point to support your statement.

(The newsbite went on to say that the US govt is getting most of its Iran intelligence from Iranian dissidents passing on "gossip" and a lot of "wishful thinking.")

Ugh asked does anyone know of a collection of all the torture information (from the OLC memos to articles on extraordinary rendition) anywhere (internet or not)?

There are several books out that collect different slices of the information. A January review in The Nation is a good overview, helpful in deciding which you might want to get hold of.

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