The CIA is certainly getting its fifteen minutes of fame lately what with the Scooter Libby trial, and trying to figure out who first leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a "covert" CIA operative. And now, just yesterday, comes word that a German court has issued arrest warrants to more than a dozen CIA agents who are believed to be involved in the kidnapping, and beating of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, Khaled el-Masri. While the Libby trial and leak-gate are crucially important not just for the future of a journalist's right to ensure confidentiality to sources, or for citizens to believe that they haven't been victims of a marketing campaign on the part of their government, the trial must not be allowed to deflect attention away from the astonishing fact that Germany wants to arrest these agents.
While he is a Muslim, and Lebanese by descent, Mr. Masri is a German citizen, and his claims that he was "drugged, beaten, then flown by the CIA to a detention center in Afghanistan where he was held for five months before the U.S. government flew him to Albania and left him there" (International Herald Tribune) have ostensibly attracted enough attention to enable Munich prosecutors to attempt to secure these warrants. Though the extradition of these agents, from the U.S., is far from certain, the fact that the German government has taken the covert, extraordinary rendition of Khaled el-Masri to the lengths it has attests to the extent to which the European community, in general, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular, deplore the Bush Doctrine of military preemption, its ongoing violation of Geneva, and international law. Arguably, these arrests are also in response to the report presented to the European Parliament, in January, that show that many member nations of the European Union cooperated with the CIA, and enabled them to use their air space to transport terror suspects to secret detention cells in countries where torture is permissible.
To borrow a term the CIA often employs, the attempt to hold these agents accountable to German law may be seen as blowbock, or retaliation for covert and illicit CIA overseas operations that have been hidden from the American public, a government that has compromised its citizens' privacy more than any country to date appears to be more accomplished at hiding its tracks than any other in recent memory.
What a cruel irony that we claim to be exporting democracy and human rights when the European Union, and the U.N., are speaking out against our egregious transgressions, as well as monitoring the practices of our intelligence operatives while we, in the U.S., don't seem to be paying a whole lot of attention to it. This is even more troubling in light of revelations, shortly after 9/11, that under a "secret finding" of Bush's anti-terror legislation, the CIA now has the power to hunt down, and kill any American citizen deemed to be an "enemy combatant," or member of Al Qaeda, anywhere in the world. (CBS News)
Back in December, 2002, an anonymous U.S. government official suggested that, while capturing Al Qaeda would be "preferable" to killing them, murder would be okay, too. Importantly, American citizens are not exempt from being hunted, and murdered. There has already been one reported American victim of this newfound power invested in the CIA. In Yemen, in 2002, a car filled with what were believed to be Al Qaeda members was riddled with bullets, taking the life of a Yemeni who was an American citizen, Kamal Derwish, who was in the car. It was never determined if Derwish was, in fact, an Al Qaeda member. A legal analyst, at the time, said, in effect, that empowering the CIA with the capacity to take the lives of anyone it deems to be an enemy of the U.S. is legal "because the President and his lawyers say so--it's not much more complicated than that." (CBS) Yet, more than four years after this startling report aired which revealed that it is now feasible for a wartime president to order the murder of alleged enemies, without regard to due process, whether or not they happen to be U.S. citizens, on or off American soil, we haven't heard a peep about this from Congress.
What is the administration's argument for ordering the killing of an American citizen anywhere in the world? It says that when someone becomes an "enemy combatant," a term of its own devising, and takes up weapons on the side of our adversaries, "his constitutional rights are nullified and he can be killed outright." This is nothing new. Previous presidents have given the green light to kill Americans who take up arms on the side of the enemy in Latin America, but this is the first time questions have arisen as to whether or not it might be legal to take the life of an American citizen on our own soil. Lots of gray area exists in this war of abstractions where abstractions have become the weapon of mass distraction.
When questioned about their new authority following 9/11, not surprisingly, the CIA declined to comment.
Let's stop a moment, catch our breath, and think. What kind of government is it when intelligence is in bed with the military, and the military is in the president's pocket? It is incumbent upon Congress and the Supreme Court to ask this question, and to mitigate against this kind of abuse of power, and authoritarianism that may not be unprecedented in world history, but which has yet to surface in these United States.
Something is seriously awry when a prominent Western European nation actively attempts to arrest members of the CIA on charges of kidnapping, and torturing a citizen of their country during one of our now infamous clandestine operations. Something is terribly wrong when, by a simple turn of phrase, a person can be stripped of their constitutional rights, hunted down like a wild animal, and shot, or locked up in secret terror cells throughout the world , and methodically damaged in custody, routinely robbed of due process, or an adequate defense.
Now that the European Parliament has completed an investigation into practices of our CIA, and vowed never to allow extraordinary rendition to recur on their continent, it's time that the Democrats in Congress, as well as the justices on the Supreme Court stand up to this president, and an administration which has not only attempted to bully the globe, but has scrupulously managed to pull the wool over our eyes for the past six years.