Morning Report 12/4/05
Version Airways: More Suspect Renditions

You are now unfree to move about the world

Harkavy (DOD; Taguba report)

A prisoner and U.S. interrogators, courtesy of the Pentagon's own slide show of instructions for handling Muslims in Iraq, are plunked down by me on a Shadow 200 "unmanned aerial vehicle" (UA) being prepared for a "military intelligence" flight in Iraq on September 22, 2004. (Read the Pentagon's November 2004 story on these little planes, "Actionable Intelligence: UAs to Beef Up MI Assets.")

It took another blockbuster story by the Washington Post's Dana Priest this morning to put the Bush regime's travail plans back on page one of the American public consciousness.

What a shame, because Europeans have been frequently flying into rage about the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal's crackpot secret shuttling of terror suspects in and out of their airports.

Read Priest's story, but look what you may have been missing.

This weekend, according to the BBC, Der Spiegel noted that the German government has a list of more than 400 suspect CIA flights over German airspace — a list that someone in the Bush regime will have to explain. And see Der Spiegel's November 28 story "The Hunt for Hercules N8183J," which notes:

    The Council of Europe and other organizations are now demanding answers — from the US and European countries who looked the other way.

But for the best read, go back to November 21, when Der Spiegel's Holger Stark etched a rendition of a rendition to Syria's Far-Filastin prison (I dare you to come up with a creepier name for a hoosegow) that shows the Bush regime at its most hypocritical:

    German Islamic extremist Mohammed Haydar Zammar has been locked in a dungeon in Damascus for the past four years as part of Washington's post-9/11 "extraordinary renditions" program. By placing the man with suspected ties to the Hamburg al-Qaida cell in Syrian hands, the United States is allowing Damascus to commit torture so that it doesn't have to.

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And Stark's story raises all the requisite questions not only about morality and legality but also about the effectiveness of this U.S.-led scheme to round up the usual suspects and — in violation of international law and of our Constitution's principles — ship them to places where they'll be tortured.

As prisoners, they're beaten. As pure dramatic intrigue, this whole sorry maneuver by Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld can't be beat.

Zammar was captured in late 2001 as he was about to flee Casablanca, of all places. We pick up Stark's account there:

    On the morning of his return flight to Hamburg, Moroccan intelligence agents took Zammar into custody and, together with American agents, interrogated him for the next two weeks. The CIA then put him on a plane to Damascus. It was shortly before Christmas 2001. Zammar had become one of the first victims of a secret intelligence campaign that the US government has been running since Sept. 11, a campaign that has deeply divided public opinion in the United States.

    The orders to set up the program called "Extraordinary Renditions" came directly from U.S. President George W. Bush. The program focuses on hunting down suspected [Osama] bin Laden supporters like Zammar worldwide. The hunt usually ends in the suspect being taken to any of a number of US special detention facilities at the US airbases in Bagram, Afghanistan, and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Guantánamo Bay and, presumably, in Eastern Europe — a chain of secret prisons scattered around the world, where terrorism suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Ramzi Binalshibh are held and interrogated.

Far from neglecting the political context, Stark interrupts the drama several times to point it out:

    Regimes like Syria's play a central role in this campaign. They enable the beleaguered US government to practice the kind of double standards that Bush demonstrated yet again two weeks ago when he said, categorically, "we do not torture." But the US government does allow others to torture on its behalf, prisoners like Zammar, for example, so that the administration in Washington doesn't have to get its hands dirty.

    Instead, it's a role the Syrians seem more than happy to assume. Indeed, Syria is to the campaign against al-Qaida what Saudi Arabia is to the oil industry: a never-ending well. It brings information about the inner workings of the bin Laden network to the surface. But this only raises the question of who is actually given access to this resource in fighting terrorism.

In other words, to get to the bad guys, we're playing footsie with other, perhaps equally bad, guys:

    Many of the most salient details [about bin Laden's network] come from the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which has been brutally suppressed by the Syrian government for more than 20 years and has served as a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist organizations supporting bin Laden's cause.

    News about al-Qaida seeps from the finely woven net a dozen Syrian intelligence agencies have thrown over the Islamic opposition — a sort of byproduct of the Syrian government's ongoing efforts to remain in power. On at least three occasions, Damascus has furnished information that prevented terrorist attacks against US interests, including planned strikes against Navy bases in the Middle East.

    This practice raises what one high-ranking official in the German government calls "the $64,000 question." Which is more important, concern about a regime that suppresses and tortures its opposition or the ability to gather information that can help officials deal with al-Qaida more effectively?

You probably thought that Syria was our deadly enemy. No, the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal's creepy embrace of increasingly totalitarian tactics, in violation of our own cherished Constitution, means that repressive regimes are our pals, no matter what our officials say publicly.

Just as we wooed Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, whose regime has been known to boil prisoners to death. Our buddy-buddy deal with Karimov evaporated, of course.

Even our staunchest ally, Great Britain, is having second thoughts, at least publicly. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is putting the screws to the Bush regime, and (for a change) it looks like real pressure — Great Britain, after all, has to get along with its EU partners, and they're pissed about the renditions.

Condi Rice will have to come up with more than her usual homilies when she visits Europe this week. As Brian Brady reports this morning in the Scotsman's Sunday edition:

    Jack Straw has sent a second letter to the US government demanding answers over the alleged use of British airports for CIA "torture flights," Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

    Straw was last week pressured into writing to Condoleezza Rice, his US counterpart, in Britain's capacity as president of the European Union, to request "clarification" of claims that the CIA had used private jets to ferry terror suspects for interrogation — even torture — in secret prisons in Europe.

    The Foreign Secretary's second letter, which is understood to have been written on behalf of the British government, follows growing anger on both sides of the Atlantic at the so-called "extraordinary rendition" missions passing through British airspace or stopping at airports across the country. Straw's letter to Washington asks Rice for more details on the flights. Rice, the US Secretary of State, will be forced to answer the EU-wide concerns about the so-called "black sites," set out in Straw's communication, when she visits Europe this week.

You can probably figure that the out-of-control Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal will respond to all this by acting even tougher.

Last month, when Priest broke the story of the CIA's use of secret prisons in Eastern Europe for illegally holding terror suspects, the regime and its pals called for an investigation of the reporter.

How will the Bush regime react to this morning's scoop by Priest, who's one of several Post reporters more "foremost" than their colleague Bob Woodward?

Her piece today is titled "Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake — German Citizen Released After Months in 'Rendition'".

Does Priest face a probe for yet again pointing out one of the regime's disastrous errors?

Maybe Bush himself will be trotted out by his handlers to repeat their silly and dangerous assertion that "we do not torture."

It'll probably take a few more indictments before the Bush regime can be put on a leash, an B&D technique it's familiar with from the days when it felt free to do its own torturing at Abu Ghraib.

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