Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A thumb in the eye of the civilized world

To no one's surprise, but the dismay of civilized people the world over, the partisan hacks on the Roberts court have refused without comment to hear a case brought by a German citizen of Lebanese descent who claims he was abducted by CIA agents and spirited to a prison in Afghanistan where he was subjected to torture tactics. His case is the most extensively documented instance of the United States practice of "extraordinary rendition" of terrorism suspects.

The Supremes upheld the unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit, which found for the government on the specious grounds of "state secrets."

When the Fourth Circuit refused to hear Mr. al-Masri's case, they had reservations. “We recognize the gravity of our conclusions that el-Masri must be denied a judicial forum for his complaint,” Judge Robert B. King wrote in March. “The inquiry is a difficult one, for it pits the judiciary’s search for truth against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.” When the Fourth Circuit ruled, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the action “truly unbelievable” and “reminiscent of third-world countries.”

While today's action by the Supremes, which let the ruling by the Fourth Circuit stand, is not a surprise; it is expected to cast a further chill over the relationship between the United States and Germany, strained over the United States bullheaded persistence in prosecuting a failed policy in Iraq.

...Mr. Masri’s lawyer in Germany, Manfred Gnijdic, said the high court’s
refusal to consider the case sends a message that the United States expects
other nations to act responsibly but refuses to take responsibility for its own

“We are very disappointed,” Mr. Gnijdic said in an interview with The
Associated Press. “It will shatter all trust in the American justice

Mr. Masri contended in his suit that he was seized by local law
enforcement officials while vacationing in Macedonia on New Year’s Eve 2003. At
the time, he was 41 years old and an unemployed car salesman.

“They asked a lot of questions — if I have relations with Al
, Al Haramain, the Islamic Brotherhood,” Mr. Masri said in a 2005
interview with The New York Times. “I kept saying no, but they did not believe

After 23 days, he said, he was turned over to C.I.A. operatives, who
flew him to a secret C.I.A. prison in Kabul. There, Mr. Masri said, he was kept
in a small, filthy cell and shackled, drugged and beaten while being
interrogated about his supposed ties to terrorist organizations. At the end of
May 2004, Mr. Masri said, he was released in a remote part of Albania without
ever having been charged with a crime.

The CIA has never admitted to involvement in the al-Masri case, but investigators in Europe have found his account credible and arrest warrents have been issued for 13 CIA agents who have been implicated. While it is unlikely that the Bush administration would have any higher regard for the law in another nation when he doesn't even respect it at home, the existence of the warrants will hamper the ability of the agents to move about Europe.

The Constitution Project, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to focus
attention on constitutional issues, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to take
up the case “profoundly disappointing.”

“The government’s treatment of Mr. El-Masri has been appalling, and the
executive branch should not be permitted to hide its mistakes behind the
so-called state secrets privilege,” said the organization’s senior counsel,
Sharon Bradford Franklin. “Now that the Court has declined to consider this
issue, Congress should immediately take up legislation to reform the state
secrets privilege and clarify that it does not authorize unchecked power to
disregard individual rights.”

Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has introduced legislation to ban extraordinary rendition, said today that “the Bush administration reflexively responds with the ‘state secrets’ defense whenever it is caught bending or simply ignoring the law.”

I have taken a few moments to contact my Senators and Representative and encourage them to support or sponsor legislation to rein in the abuses of the State Secrets provision that has become a petticoat under which to hide from accountability. I would encourage you to do the same - and remember to be civil.

And if this utter apostasy, this "fuck you" to the rest of the world, does not highlight the importance of a Democrat making the next Supreme Court appointment, I don't know how to reach you.