Thursday, October 11, 2007

A tale of shirt-tails

There has been a fair amount of coverage of the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who sued the US government for damages because, he says,
he was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers and was detained while attempting to enter Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003.

He claims that CIA agents stripped, beat, shackled, diapered, drugged and chained him to the floor of a plane for a flight to Afghanistan. He says he was held for four months in a CIA-run prison known as the "salt pit" in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

After the CIA determined it had the wrong man, el-Masri says, he was dumped on a hilltop in Albania and told to walk down a path without looking back.
The claims are not idle; they
were backed by European investigations and U.S. news reports. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that U.S. officials acknowledged that el-Masri's detention was a mistake.
The WHS*, however, refuse to acknowledge that he was taken and demanded that the courts dismiss his claim on the basis of the so-called "state secrets privilege," claiming that even considering the case, even providing evidence to the judge in chambers, would reveal vital national security information "concern[ing] the highly classified methods and means of the program." It is a "trust us, we know what's best" defense - and traditionally, albeit it shockingly, the courts have deferred to it.

And now the Supreme Court has done precisely that, dismissing without comment el-Masri's suit, putting an end to any hope he had for recompense, justice, or even a simple acknowledgment of error.
"We are very disappointed," Manfred Gnijdic, el-Masri's attorney in Germany, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his office in Ulm.

"It will shatter all trust in the American justice system," Gnijdic said. He said the United States expects every other nation to act responsibly but refuses to take responsibility for its own actions.
So very true. Of course, the Court will grandly insist that in denying his appeal without comment the justices took no position on the merits of his case, that the issues raised have not been adjudicated, that the Court has not approved "rendition," as the process is called, it has not approved kidnapping or torture, especially of innocent people.

It will say that even though for those of us who live in the real world instead of the fantasy of legal briefs, that is exactly what it has done. It has informed the thugs and goons who populate the White House that they can kidnap, beat, torture, imprison, with absolute impunity, that they are beyond the reach of both the law and justice, that they can't be touched by cop or court, that they have powers barely dreamed of by kings of old - because whatever they have done, whatever extremes they have reached, and whoever they have done it to, when challenged all they need do is say "we don't want to tell you about it" and the courts will say "oh, okay." As Gnijdic said in an obvious understatement, "That is a disaster."

That wrapping their cruelties in secrecy is the intent can be read in the numbers. According to, whose "Secrecy Report Card 2007" can be found at this link, between 1953 and 1976, across the span of the Cold War, the state secrets privilege was used precisely six times. Since 2001, it has been used 39 times. To silence such people as Sibel Edmonds. To silence such people as Khaled el-Masri. To silence the truth.

And then there is the shirt-tail, one of I. F. Stone's shirt-tails, the important bit buried at the end of an article.
The state secrets privilege arose from a 1953 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the executive branch to keep secret, even from the court, details about a military plane's fatal crash.

Three widows sued to get the accident report after their husbands died aboard a B-29 bomber, but the Air Force refused to release it claiming that the plane was on a secret mission to test new equipment. The high court accepted the argument, but when the report was released decades later there was nothing in it about a secret mission or equipment.
The entire states secret privilege is based on a goddam CYA lie. I wrote about this back in March 2005:
It turns out when the documents were finally declassified in 2000 that the accident report - which the Justices never actually saw, having taken the word of the Air Force as to the significance of its contents - had no material information about the plane's mission or the secret equipment being tested, but did contain information that the plane had suffered numerous safety problems and was considered unsafe to fly.
The documents ascribe fault for the crash to the Air Force's failure to comply with orders to modify the B-29's exhaust assembly, the apparent source of the fire that caused the crash. In addition, the service was at fault for failing to brief the civilian contractors that were on the flight in proper emergency procedures....
That is the "secret" the Air Force was trying to conceal.
When the information was released, the one surviving widow asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. It dismissed her in a single sentence.

El-Masri is in good company. And, like the man said, "the law is an ass." And so is the Supreme Court.

*WHS = White House Sociopaths

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