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How You Know You’ve Been Kidnapped by the CIA

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At last we have details regarding “special rendition.” This is important. If you are mistakenly kidnapped and tortured by the CIA, it’s useful to know what to expect. The intrepid Dana Priest (WaPo’s new star, now that Woodward has become Dubya’s pet hack), has written yet another remarkable exposé of the Cheney/Bush reign of (t)error — Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake. Don’t read this simply because it’s fascinating, and nauseating. Read it because it may come in handy:

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA’s own covert prisons — referred to in classified documents as “black sites,” which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.

Right. So, let’s say you’ve just had a spat with your wife, and you take a spontaneous trip across the border to “blow off steam” — oh, and you happen to have an ordinary Arabic name — then this is a possible outcome. It is in fact what happened to Khaled Masri, an innocent German citizen.

Let’s try to picture this. You’ve taken a quick trip to clear your head, and suddenly you’re surrounded by guys dressed like ninjas, who blindfold you, cut off your clothes, give you an enema, and put you in a diaper. Which is, okay, sort of humorous. Right? Until they take you to a cell and torture you.

“Masri said his cell in Afghanistan was cold, dirty and in a cellar, with no light and one dirty cover for warmth. The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: ‘You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know.'”

Now, it’s hard to argue, in this case, that the coverup is worse than the crime, but it sure competes. And the suggested coverup is nothing short of mind-boggling — by comparison, enough to render credible any conspiracy theorist at his most paranoid. When the CIA recognized that they’d kidnapped and tortured the wrong man — something they’ve done a fair bit of, recently — it was crucial to figure out the PR ramifications. (Perhaps they consulted Rove.)

At the CIA, the question was: Now what? Some officials wanted to go directly to the German government; others did not. Someone suggested a reverse rendition: Return Masri to Macedonia and release him. ‘There wouldn’t be a trace. No airplane tickets. Nothing. No one would believe him,’ one former official said. ‘There would be a bump in the press, but then it would be over.’

Unbelievable. (Perhaps they consulted Ludlum?) Ah, but it didn’t happen. Well, not quite. It’s true that when Masri was released — after five months in isolation — they told him “that he would not receive any documents or papers confirming his ordeal. The Americans would never admit they had taken him prisoner.” The compromise, however, is that the German interior minister was told about Masri’s case. Of course, this polite tip came with a specific request: “that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public.”

I hope you’re taking notes. This is what can happen to you, at the hands of the Bush administration (let’s remember that this is policy): you can suddenly, for no reason, find yourself bound and stripped by masked men, drugged and imprisoned, held in isolation for an unspecified period of time — during which you will be tortured — then released with the suggestion that you keep this unfortunate business to yourself, because nobody’s going to believe you if you try to complain.

The problem is that this kind of story is no longer incredible. We do believe you. I can’t imagine that anyone seriously questions whether Masri’s tale is true — in the Age of Cheney, this is how the United States is expected to act abroad. (Not at home. If the masked men pick you up here, you’ll be shipped off to a “black site,” perhaps in Romania, where they cannot hear you scream.)

Remember when fatuous Republicans were constantly huffing, “where is the outrage?” I believe that the most fatuous of them all, the swinging gambler Bill Bennett, wrote an entire book with a title something like this. Well, I think it’s time to revive that question. Where, for Christ’s sake, is the outrage?

(If this post struck you as inflammatory, head over to Dysblog for the unbounded inferno.)

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  • http://www.unspace.net/ Rob

    I think this is a wonderful development, especially once the administration gets over it’s reluctance to use this against Americans.

    Deal drugs? There’s a special rendition for you. Involved in mob activities? Special rendition time! Cheat on your taxes? Special rendition with the addition of calculators. Speak out against the Republicans? Special renditions around the elections! Litter? Your special rendition can wind up at the dump.

    So what if a few innocent people get hurt? Isn’t it better that 9 innocent people get special renditions where they’re gone for four or five months, as long as one terrorist isn’t accidentaly released? You know all criminals are terrorists…

    Besides, since they are special renditions, no one has to know what happened to you. Isn’t it simpler to just disappear such people than release them and have to admit you screwed up?

    This is simply one of the things necessary to protect America’s freedoms. It’s double-plus goodthink.

  • Justin Berry

    surely you have more evidence than just, cheneys involved it must be true.

    Maybe you should, at least, cite Farakaan or someone with experience in this type of mess.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I do have to point out that those of us who are not Arab and don’t have the same name as a major terrorist figure don’t actually face that much threat of abduction.

    Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    That’s nice to know, Dave.

    As long as we reserve our barbarism for dark people with funny names, we’re basically a civilized country, right?

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    And Justin, this is not speculation. Cheney is the *point man* in this administration when it comes to torture. He *personally* took up the fight against the McCain Amendment.

    I mean, what are you trying to say? That this is some rogue CIA operation, without any sort of authority? Come on. You don’t have to bring in a loon like Farrakhan; if you want documentation, I suggest you spend some time at andrewsullivan.com — this is a former editor of *The New Republic*, hardly a foaming leftwing rag.

    Or just read the Washington Post, regularly.

    Cheney’s deep involvement in this administration’s torture policy is not a conjecture — it’s a *fact*.

  • http://www.unspace.net/ Rob

    Dave,

    There are plenty of normal names on the No-Fly list. Are you sure you’re not on the list? Or a friend or family member?

    And how do you know your name isn’t on some foreign country’s watch list? Best you stay in the United States.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Dave, I wonder if you’ve ever come across this (from a Lutheran pastor who, despite having a good German name, and even an early history of apologizing for what became the, uh, administration, was sent to Dachau) —

    FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS

    First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

    – Pastor Martin Niemöller

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    And I understand the problem with “moral equivalence” — I’m certainly not suggesting that this vicious administration is anything nearly so evil as *that* vicious administration — but you should find the sentiment in the poem, if nothing else, useful.

    You’ve suggested that you can’t bring yourself to oppose these barbaric tactics, on the grounds that they won’t be employed against you, or people who look like you. Well, you might want to think again.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    You’ve suggested that you can’t bring yourself to oppose these barbaric tactics, on the grounds that they won’t be employed against you, or people who look like you. Well, you might want to think again.

    No, I haven’t suggested that, actually. I suggested that I didn’t think I was at much risk. That’s it. When the tables turn and the democrats get in power and they start looking for white guys who live on fortified compounds with a lot of guns like they did under Clinton, then I’ll be number one on the list. The power to intrude in peoples lives cuts both ways and while we may trust the current administration to use it, who is to say we will trust their successors?

    That said, the evidence of ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the kidnapping you use as an example in the article is extremely sketchy. There’s no indication that they are ‘coming for’ anyone here in the US as suggested by your reference to the famous Niemoller quote. They’re not rounding people up, they’re not creating camps, and there’s no systematic program involved. They are taking only isolated targets of opportunity and the case you reference demostrates that they ARE going through a process of verification and releasing people who are taken mistakenly. We’re not exactly talking boxcars full of random jews hauled off to Dachau.

    Dave

  • Nancy

    All things considered, I think perhaps they SHOULD use rendition on drug dealers, and guys like the Enron crew, too, for that matter. That said, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe all those ‘alien abductions’ that have been reported for the past 50-odd years were CIA, after all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I appreciate your resentment of the Enron guys, but that’s not the kind of criminal where ‘extraordinary rendition’ makes any sense. Those guys are falling all over each other to cut a deal and sell their former partners out. The idea of ER (shall we call it that for short) is not to just punish bad guys, tempting though that would be, but to keep people who are potentially dangerous out of circulation for indefinite periods of time, and get the time to figure out ways to make them cooperate.

    Dave

  • Nancy

    Oh … well, then, we’d better extend it to congress, as well.

  • Bliffle

    Dave says:

    “The idea of ER (shall we call it that for short) is not to just punish bad guys, tempting though that would be, but to keep people who are potentially dangerous out of circulation for indefinite periods of time, and get the time to figure out ways to make them cooperate.”

    I think ER is a great idea! How do I hire some guys to do it on my ex-wife?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Don’t joke, Bliffle, there are people who WILL do that for you, at least if you’re a moslem and your ex-wife is a disobedient westerner who needs some time in purdah back in the homeland to straighten her out.

    Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Which shouldn’t upset you at all, Dave, since you clearly approve of this behavior.

    Or is it only when rendition is practiced by *Americans* on innocent victims that you think it’s okay?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Again, did I ever say it was ‘okay’? Pretty sure I didn’t.

    Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    No, not precisely: what you have done is to go out of your way to excuse the current administration’s repulsive record when it comes to torture. The evidence in the case I cited is “sketchy” (in what precise sense?) Is all of the evidence of rendition and torture “sketchy”? Or do you agree that this administration has kidnapped innocent people, and tortured innocent people (in one well-documented example — Diliwar in Bagram — tortured him to death).

    And if you agree that this is the case, then why are you trying to carry water for these thugs? And if you think this is not the case… well, I can’t help you. We have first-person accounts, affidavits, medically examined bodies, *photographs*.

    Whenever you address these crimes, it’s only to paper them over, question their veracity, deny their importance — which, I’m sorry, suggests to me that you think they’re okay.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    No, not precisely: what you have done is to go out of your way to excuse the current administration’s repulsive record when it comes to torture.

    No, you’re reading something into my comments which isn’t there. This is what you expected me to do, but now what I have done. No one rational defends torture or abductions.

    The evidence in the case I cited is “sketchy” (in what precise sense?) Is all of the evidence of rendition and torture “sketchy”? Or do you agree that this administration has kidnapped innocent people, and tortured innocent people (in one well-documented example — Diliwar in Bagram — tortured him to death).

    It’s sketchy in the sense that you didn’t provide links to any definitive evidence of a systematic problem. The one case you do link to is relatively mild. The guy was taken by accident in what was more of an arrest than an abduction, and then hardly tortured in any meaningful way at all. You don’t link to the Diliwar case, but even if you had, it doesn’t involve an abduction OR the CIA and it was a case of individual soldiers who acted without approval from even their immediate commander – so again, it’s not evidence of something systematic. You attempt to raise the specter of a systematic practice by the CIA of abducting and torturing people – and you even imply this is going on within the US – and the evidence just isn’t there.

    And if you agree that this is the case, then why are you trying to carry water for these thugs? And if you think this is not the case… well, I can’t help you. We have first-person accounts, affidavits, medically examined bodies, *photographs*.

    I agree tha abducting and torturing people is bad. I don’t agree that there’s a systematic campaign of it going on or that it’s being used as any kind of instrument of policy or regular practice.

    Whenever you address these crimes, it’s only to paper them over, question their veracity, deny their importance — which, I’m sorry, suggests to me that you think they’re okay.

    No, I’m suggesting that the evidence isn’t there to support your claim that these crimes are anything more than isolated incedents. That’s not the same as approving of them. I certainly condemn each of these crimes – and in fact the Bagram criminals were convicted this week. But that’s what they are, isolated CRIMES, not some sort of conspiracy.

    Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    This statement is absolutely shocking: “The guy was taken by accident in what was more of an arrest than an abduction, and then hardly tortured in any meaningful way at all.”

    Excuse me? He was picked up in Macedonia, blindfolded and flown to Afghanistan, where he was kicked and beaten and held in solitary for five months! What part of that strikes you as “not meaningful”? If they kicked him in the head, is that “meaningful”? What if they kicked him in the testicles? Does that constitute, say, “torture”, in your mind?

    I suppose we could just assume that he was kicked and beaten lightly in places that don’t really hurt. (That is what you in fact *do* assume, which is at best a hideous failure of imagination.)

    You want URLs? Try this.

    Here you’ll find precise figures regarding the disappeared. And quotations from *military personnel* who are utterly demoralized by the systematic torture they have witnessed, and been pressured to join in.

    As for Dilawar, I’ve covered this before.

    The criminals have been punished, have they? Just as a matter of interest, what was the highest rank occupied by a punished criminal? Anyone responsible for, say, policy? Thought not.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Sorry, that was the wrong URL for Dilawar (although it’s a useful article in itself). I meant to post a link to “George Walker Bush and the Torture of the Innocent”.

    [DAC: Putting active urls is permitted on this site and saves the volunteer Comments Editor a lot of time… Thank you. Comments Editor.]

  • Dave Nalle

    Interesting article from Salon. Long on accusations, but short on substance. Plus some glaringly suspect information. For example, they say that 140K prisoners have passed through US hands with about 100 deaths over the course of the war. That’s pretty amazing. That’s lower than the death rate over the same period in the civilian population in the US.

    Like I said before, there have certainly been some incidents and there’s some investigating still to be done, but you’re really inflating the situation far out of proportion.

    Dave

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    DAVE:

    If that is 100 prisoners that have died whilst being held by the USA, I fail to understand either why you would try to compare it to “the death rate over the same period in the civilian population” OR why you seem to think that is merely “some incidents”.

    I find the statistic as depressing as listening to Condoleeza Rice’s depressingly shifty and evasive speech on the subject of the current US Government’s possibly illegal transportation of prisoners through the European Union.

    Frankly, the death of any prisoner in the hands of the US authorities should be a cause for grave concern and detailed investigation. I could believe there would be a few by natural causes or “whatever”, but one hundred? That seems to strain my credulity…

  • Nancy

    Almost as amusing are the reports that the CIA has been scrambling to re-locate prisoners out of the European secret sites into new ones in N. Africa, so that when Condi Rice swears in Bush’s name that the US has no secret prisons in Europe & does not torture detainees, TECHNICALLY she’ll be telling the truth. Bush is SO goddamn dumb; why does he persist in thinking that just because he repeats something ad nauseam that anyone is finally going to believe it? He just keeps demonstrating what a clueless, stupid, out-of-control & out-of-touch-w/-reality ass he is. I have nothing but contempt for his pandering pimps who do his dirty work & try to spread his lies for him, when they know better.

    What constantly floors & astonishes me is that, for people who claim religious faith, the crew of BushCo are all remarkably cavalier about violating ethical & moral standards left & right, while mouthing pious platitudes. They either do not care that they’re going to be called to account (by religious tradition), or they don’t believe it in the first place, in which case they are monumental poseurs & hypocrites. Of course, it could also be, I suppose, that they’re all totally out of touch with reality, which is even scarier.

  • Aaman

    Why do they administer an enema to the enemies of the State?

    Sounds like a cross between Dr Moreau and Dr Kildare

  • Nancy

    I was wondering that, too. Maybe it’s a psychological thing, to humiliate & upset them? I guess if I were uncontrollably shitting my pants & had no access to a toilet or change of clothes (after all, nothing is said about changing the diapers, maybe the CIA makes them live in it?) I’d be pretty demoralized & upset.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I had assumed that the enemas were to make sure they didn’t have any weapons up their poop shoots, but who knows.

    As for the 100 deaths, DAC – it’s a statistic, not an anecdote, not a section-8 dischargee with an axe to grind. Think about it. Fewer people died among those prisoners than if they’d been kidnapped and released to work at a job in your local mall. Do you not get the significance of that figure?

    If you don’t, that goes a long way to explaining why you can’t see the problem here.

    Dave

  • Maurice

    On a lighter note:

    Anybody remember the Woody Allen movie “Take the Money and Run”? When the prisoners misbehaved they had to go to the hot box with an insurance salesman.

    I’ll take the enema!

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Comment #7 to this article has been chosen as Comment of the Day for Monday 5th December 2005.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    Douglas,
    I got to hand it to you, whenever I see your name, I click on it at Blogcritics pronto. (In fact, this is the 3rd time I HAD to put you on my blog.)

    You and Dave Nalle keep bringing me back to Blogcritics. (Now of course, I think Nalle is a perfect example of a fine mind gone completely wrong-headed, but he does employ a veneer of logic, and I love thinking of him keeping feral animals at bay with his collection of weaponry down south, like some bizarro William Faulkner surrounded by Southern cretins. I just wish Nalle was hunting feral politicians instead of the imaginary bees he has in his bonnet about “socialist liberals.” I’m always suspicious about guys who need to think up “enemies” to get their thinking started.)

    Anyway, Douglas, thank you for your outrage. And I hope your novel is selling.

  • Dave Nalle

    Sadly there’s a law against hunting feral politicians, or I’d have a few heads on the wall of my barn. Now when they reclassify all politicians as ‘shoot at will’ varmints like Coyotes and Pigs, then all bets are off.

    Ok, now back to watching Alice’s Restaurant

    Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Thanks Adam.

    And Dave, the statistics relating to the general populace are just a bit misleading, aren’t they? They include all of those people who are naturally on their deathbeds, and who then die during that period. If you kidnapped and released them into your local mall, then they would still die, yes, but they would not be *tortured to death by the US military.*

    The statistics would be comparable only if marines were raiding old age homes in Fallujah and imprisoning the near-dead.

  • http://www.fifthdentist.blogspot.com The Fifth Dentist

    Nalle: “I do have to point out that those of us who are not Arab and don’t have the same name as a major terrorist figure don’t actually face that much threat of abduction.”

    Holy shit Dave. Do you realize what you’re saying here? You’re saying the rest of us non-arabs shouldn’t give a shit what happens to these people because it’s not going to happen to us. That’s pretty fucking cowardly.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    No, I’m saying that they’re not randomly going after people in America for no reason, 5D. That’s implied in the article and it’s obviously a gross misrepresentation. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about my Arab brothers, but I do think the very small numbers of detentions ought to be seen in the proper perspective.

    Oh, and Cooper. The percentage of deaths among the detainees is still lower than the rate of deaths among a comprarable number of US civilians in the age range of 18-22. So try again.

    Dave

  • http://DouglasAnthonyCooper Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Where are you getting these statistics? I mean, perhaps you’re right: you have a *better* chance of surviving if you’re imprisoned by the American military, than if you’re… not.

    Sure. I believe you. And what’s really interesting is that — given that some of those imprisoned are murdered — the others must have a really fine quality of life and medical care, since they have an *even lower mortality rate.*

    Classic reductio ad absurdum suggests that these statistics are not commensurable. I would guess that the figures regarding the disappeared are nowhere near complete. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the ones that you’re pulling up are equally flawed.

    Although if you can demonstrate that I have a better chance of surviving special rendition than I do of simply living free, I’ll happily change my name, a la Cat Stevens.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    If you’re going to go with a career as a disappeared person I’d recommend taking the name Douglas Al Hakim, since your namesake got disappeared in a back alley in Cairo and became the focus of a whole sect of Islam as a result.

    As for my stats, they come from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau, which compiles death stats from all the states. I originally gathered the data for an article on death rates among soldiers in Iraq – who are about 1/10% less likely to die if they go to Iraq than if they stay in the US, mostly because of high levels of drunk driving in their age groups.

    Dave