February 13th, 2009. Circuit City is gone, Starbucks is laying off workers right and left, President Obama has just scored his first major victory in Congress — and I have a blog. Who knew? Life does change, don't it?
But let's rewind back less than 2 years ago. June 7, 2007, to be exact — and the group of brave independent-minded folks at The Center for Constitutional Rights, in collaboration with Amnesty International USA and Washington Square Legal Services who had gone against Bush-Cheney executive privilege screen and filed a Ghost Detention and Extraordinary Detention suit under the Freedom of Information Act. And yesterday, I was privileged to be among the first few to learn the details of what their victory against the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency actually entails.
Now, let's backtrack a little more, to April 2004 when 60 minutes broke for television audiences a New Yorker story, revealing some truly horrendous torture and prisoner abuse that has been going on in a little piece of heaven called Abu Ghraib. Turns out that this is just the tip of the iceberg - people have been disappearing abroad, being tortured and held without a trial or even being charged with a crime, with no access to their families or legal counsel, for an indefinite amount of time. No, this wasn't the Soviet Union - this was good old US of A.
In those "Mission Accomplished" days, when waterboarding — no it's not a fun thing to do at the beach — was an accepted interrogation technique, along with being stripped naked and assaulted with angry guard dogs, the only means of combating such abuse - which was always shrouded in secrecy and under the guise of 'securing the homeland' - was to bring it to light. And the good people at CCR and Amnesty did just that.
During a conference call held on February 12, 2009, representatives from the plaintiff groups involved in this case spoke to journalists regarding the case and their findings. It had been revealed that the documents obtained via the favorable court ruling confirm the existence of secret prisons; affirm the Department of Defense's cooperation with the CIA’s ghost detention program; and show one case where the DOD sought to delay the release of Guantánamo prisoners who were scheduled to be sent home by almost two months so as to avoid the bad press.
“These newly released documents confirm our suspicion that the tentacles of the CIA’s abusive program reached across agency lines,” said Margaret Satterhwaite, Director of NYU International Human Rights Clinic. “In fact, it is increasingly obvious that defense officials engaged in legal gymnastics to find ways to cooperate with the CIA’s activities. A full accounting of all agencies must now take place to ensure that future abuses don’t continue under a different guise.”