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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons

Washington Post:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement. The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
I have always been skeptical of the morality of U.S. personnel avoiding U.S. law by using a extra-territorial location. This includes the very concept of Guantanamo. If Git-Mo, and the CIA prisons are in fact important for our security, the case should be made that they are and the law changed to allow them. I think that their are times, and situations where both secret imprisonment and extraordinary interogations is warranted. The obvious time when secret imprisonment is a good idea is when you manage to capture someone without the other side knowing you have captured them. Keeping their capture a secret is likely to enable you to capture others who attempt to contact them or who the detainee knows and reveals their location. Once that bad guys know you have the detainee, that dries up. Of course even in the best case scenario, this runs out in a few weeks. The only remaining reason I can think of to keep someone secret is to perform interogate them in an extraordinary manner. Whether or not this is torture is the subject of some debate. I don't necessarily hold that the various treaties on torture are definitive, the article mentions waterboarding for example, which while obviously unpleasent doesn't actually cause lasting harm. This is something that should be worked out properly in the U.S. legal code however. If it is illegal for the CIA to do something in the U.S., they should not be doing it in other places. Perhaps one could argue that in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 there was not time to address these issues and a temporary solution had to be found. Regardless of that though, it has been over 4 years now and that is sufficient time for any needed legal changes to have been made. I have mentioned before that I think the Bush administrations failure to directly deal with this issue has been a huge mistake. There is always the hypothetical 'nuke in New York' scenario, where we have a prisoner who be believe knows specific details of an imminent attack. I am perfectly willing to adopt a very permissive standard toward torture in that scenario, although I think there should be some rules as well. Getting a direct order from the President seems like a pretty good one. That is a very rare situation though.


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