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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 5 December 2005

Topic: Breaking News

Diplomacy: What's the Message and Who Do You Trust?
Some stories have legs, it seems. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic mission to Europe seems to be one of them, covered under the title "Dominatrix Diplomacy" in these pages here on December 2nd and here two days later with a few more details.

She's there to discuss all the issues that have come up with our secret prisons in eastern Europe, old soviet jails where we have "disappeared" folks we've grabbed off the streets of Rome and other places, without telling anyone, and who we may be torturing, or as we claim, just using "enhanced interrogation techniques." The Europeans, it seems, don't want any part in all this "disappearing" and possible torture. They're squeamish or something - and are even upset we fly these "non-persons" to places that don't exist, where bad things happen to them, using their airports and airspace. The initial reports were that the line that Rice was going to take was to tell these effete fussbudget European wimps to just "back off." Rice was going to remind these "allies" they themselves have been cooperating in our anti-terror operations - and they should simply "do more to win over their publics." In short, they should get their press and public and various legislatures and commissions under control - and get them to just shut up.

But as Joel Brinkley for the New York Times and Brian Knowlton for the International Herald Tribune report here, Rice is not being that crude, although, as she left for the trip and chatted with reporters, she is being a bit blunt. The public message? Europeans should not complain too loudly about undercover intelligence actions that had helped "save European lives."

This seems to be a variation on the old, "We saved your butt in two world wars, so shut the hell up." The point is we're doing it again now, so be grateful and don't complain.

Of course she again denied that the United States engaged in torture, ever - and said we had violated none of our laws and no international treaties. It's just that "extraordinary rendition," as it is called (some call it kidnapping), is just necessary. And she kind of hinted that "some European governments" knew more about what was going on than they were willing to admit in public. This item quotes her saying this - "It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries, and decide how much sensitive information they can make public."

And she winked? No, not really.

Brinkley and Knowlton do point out that all this "could complicate" the meeting Tuesday with the new German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. That was all about new warm ties between German and the United States. But it seems a German official confirmed Monday that Germany had a list of more than four hundred over-flights and landings in the past few years by planes probably used by the CIA for this work. Der Spiegel was on that - data from German air traffic controllers - 437 flights or landings in Germany by CIA planes, including 137 by one plane and 146 by another. Well, that's something to chat about. In DC on the way out Rice said this - "The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured."

That's a non-denial trick, admitting the flights but saying we don't do torture. What we do is really special, but it's not exactly torture. And her endeavor is to say that whatever it is we do, well, it works, and makes you Europeans safe - so cut us some slack here and shut up and be appropriately grateful.

But then late Monday, December 5th, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito hit the wires with an ABC "exclusive" - here, opening with this -
Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania.

Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

CIA officials asked ABC News not the name the specific countries where the prisons were located, citing security concerns.

The CIA declines to comment, but current and former intelligence officials tell ABC News that 11 top al Qaeda figures were all held at one point on a former Soviet air base in one Eastern European country. Several of them were later moved to a second Eastern European country.
The Polish and Romanian secret prisons were, then, quite real. And we cleared them real fast before Rice got to Europe.

Cool. And what happens in North Africa stays in North Africa.

And there's this -
All but one of these 11 high-value al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the harshest interrogation techniques in the CIA's secret arsenal, the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized for use by about 14 CIA officers and first reported by ABC News on Nov. 18.

... These same sources also tell ABC News that U.S. intelligence also ships some "unlawful combatants" to countries that use interrogation techniques harsher than any authorized for use by U.S. intelligence officers. They say that Jordan, Syria, Morocco and Egypt were among the nations used in order to extract confessions quickly using techniques harsher than those authorized for use by U.S. intelligence officers. These prisoners were not necessarily citizens of those nations.

According to sources directly involved in setting up the CIA secret prison system, it began with the capture of Abu Zabayda in Pakistan. After treatment there for gunshot wounds, he was whisked by the CIA to Thailand where he was housed in a small disused warehouse on an active airbase. There, his cell was kept under 24-hour closed circuit TV surveillance and his life-threatening wounds were tended to by a CIA doctor especially sent from Langley headquarters to assure Abu Zubaydah was given proper care, sources said. Once healthy, he was slapped, grabbed, made to stand long hours in a cold cell and finally handcuffed and strapped feet up to a water board until after .31 seconds he begged for mercy and began to cooperate.

... Of the 12 high value targets housed by the CIA, only one did not require water boarding before he talked. Ramzi bin al-Shibh broke down in tears after he was walked past the cell of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner for Sept. 11. Visibly shaken, he started to cry and became as cooperative as if he had been tied down to a water board, sources said.
Of course, some call all this torture. Some don't, and have various other names for it.

Some say all this is necessary and quite effective, and others say what information is given up is unreliable at best.

Some say this sort of thing makes us hated and scorned around the world, while others say this sort of thing makes us feared, and that's a very, very good thing for our safety. On the other hand, hatred and scorn, and fear, may lead to the very angry acting against us, making us less safe.

Choose your side.

Rice says this - "The captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs. We have had to adapt."

And so we have.

Did much of this take place in the old KGB prison in Poland, in a sort of homage to the good old days? Consider -
Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told ABC Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross today: "My president has said there is no truth in these reports."

Ross asked: "Do you know otherwise, sir, are you aware of these sites being shut down in the last few weeks, operating on a base under your direct control?"

Sikorski answered, "I think this is as much as I can tell you about this."
Geez, this is a Tom Clancy movie. There's this secret prison in Romania, at a military base visited last year by Rumsfeld, and the new Romanian prime minister said there is no evidence of a CIA site - but that he will investigate. But ABC has sources saying it's been there since March 2002, and the approval for another secret prison was granted last year by some unnamed North African nation, and the CIA has a system of secretly returning prisoners to their home country when they have "outlived their usefulness" to the United States - and we use Jordan, Syria, Morocco and Egypt to extract confessions quickly "using techniques harsher than those authorized for use by US intelligence officers."

And what of the mistakes? It's not just the German fellow in the December 4th Washington Post story - the ABC reporters were told that Jordanians, Egyptians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, Saudis, Pakistanis, Uzbekistanis and Chinese citizens have been returned to their nations' intelligence services. Sorry about that.

As before, someone at the CIA doesn't much care for what we're doing - some stuffy traditionalist, no doubt - and is trying to stop it. One thinks of Deep Throat meeting the young Bob Woodward in the parking structure late at night, to put an end to the Nixon crew's nastiness - first Dana Priest of the Post and now these two guys from ABC News. Something is up.

And Rice's mission to slap the Europeans back into line and make them grateful to us for saving their butts once again - to put these childish people in their place - is undermined.

This sure is interesting.

Posted by Alan at 23:29 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005 23:32 PST home

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