Thursday, September 07, 2006

Coming soon, to another forgotten corner of the world

Secret prisons.

I know we're supposed to believe that Bush and his CIA are shutting them down. That's what they tell us, right?

I don't believe them. I have a dreadful feeling that this secret program is too "precious" for them to abandon outright. Why?

I was already getting angry reading Dana Priest's account of the CIA reaction to Bush's disclosure. I wasn't angry with Priest (she's awesome) but rather the tone of some of the agents' reactions, e.g. "I know it's going to make a lot of people sleep well at night" and then this beaut from James Pavitt (ex-head of CIA's covert-ops):
Finally the burden of this program will not rest only on the shoulders of the CIA [...] This was a tough world and we were asked to do some tough things.
Well, well, then. Nighty night. Glad you can sleep well! Sorry about all of those "tough" things you had to do. Yearghhh!!!

But...reading on...what's this?

But the rules for a new CIA prison system are still unsettled. "Although there is no one in CIA custody today, it's our intent that the CIA detention program continue," said a senior intelligence official. "It's simply been too valuable in the war on terrorism to not allow it to move forward."
[...] Administration officials said yesterday that the need for secret CIA prisons continues, but that they will seek legislation immunizing CIA employees from prosecution for anything they may have been asked to do that might now be considered illegal. At the same time, the administration will ask the intelligence committees to give it guidance to draw up a separate, shorter list of harsh techniques it might still employee under certain circumstances.
The point, said one senior official, "is to make the program more durable" and not "subject to the pendulum swings" of Congress or the president.
There you have it. There's no way they're closing up shop.

And notice the allusion to "immunizing CIA employees from prosecution." In other words: how do you deal with agents--CIA or otherwise--who have already participated in these illegal prisons and interrogations:
CIA director Michael V. Hayden, who favored the administration's stance and pushed for a revision of existing policy, alerted employees about Bush's White House statement moments before it aired. Hayden advised that they watch and assured them he was working to protect the employees who handled terrorists.
Pay close attention in the coming days: WH efforts to grant immunity to agents and themselves will only intensify as their free-ride with a Republican congress ticks away. These guys want to do away with the "outrages on personal dignity" aspect of the 1996 War Crimes Act (reported by the WaPo). And this may be only the beginning of their machinations. E.g. "Bush Aims to Kill War Crimes Act," by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith (The Nation, Sept 5th):
Bush officials have not acknowledged that one of their real motives for gutting the War Crimes Act is to protect themselves from being prosecuted for their own crimes. But so far they have apparently offered only one other reason for tampering with the law: The existing law, especially the Geneva language prohibiting "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," is too vague to enforce. (Perhaps the Bush Administration should declare the US Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" as too vague to enforce as well.)
[...] Bush's Republican allies still control both houses of Congress; they are in a position to slip a repeal of the War Crimes Act into any piece of legislation they choose. Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, senior member of the House Committee for Homeland Security, told The Nation, "The Bush Administration and the GOP leadership in Congress is trying to quietly excuse and even codify cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners in US custody, at secret CIA prisons abroad and even the abhorrent practice of extraordinary rendition [the outsourcing of torture and other cruel treatment to other countries]."
Well, I'm glad that CIA dude can "sleep well" tonight.


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