Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Secret Prisons

The Washington Post recently reported that the CIA has secret prisons in other countries, where it interrogates captured Al Qaeda members. As someone who has regularly watched Alias and 24 and countless movies with similar themes, and who has read books by Tom Clancy, etc., I would have already assumed that the CIA was doing something like this. It's interesting that so much popular culture depicts CIA (or other government) agents interrogating people secretly, etc., as something necessary or even heroic, but that so many people seem to be shocked that something like this really happens.


Blogger David Sucher said...

" much popular culture depicts CIA (or other government) agents interrogating people secretly, etc., as something necessary or even heroic..."

" much popular culture..."

Can you offer some examples?

5:25 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Huh? I began the post with several examples.

8:26 AM  
Blogger David Sucher said...

I guess we travel in different cultural circles as I have never even heard of Alias and 24 and etc etc.

Moreover, I hope no one is so world-wise, cool and sophisticated as to take these secret prisons as just part of a day's work. My own reaction is not so much "shocked" as "disgusted" and it is also disgust for the stupidity and adolescent ineffectiveness of these places in fighting terrorism as for their sheer cruelty. Torture is the refuge of people with no strategy -- the sort of people who are blundering along in the White House right now. As I blogged several years ago, my great fear is that GW Bush is not the man able to implement the Bush Doctrine. Torture camps are part of that ineffectiveness.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Richard H said...

If the war with Al Qaeda is only a police action against criminals, then I can understand the desire for a transparent system to adjudicate their situation. But then the category of war has been eliminated. PErhaps this is easier after all the other "wars" we've engaged in have diluted the concept (I'm thinking of the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Obesity, etc.).

Or perhaps people are thinking its not a real war because wars are conflicts between nation states and Al Qaeda is not a nation state. If one must have a nation state as a player for a war to exist, then I'd think that the fact of Al Qaeda's attack on a series of nation states would make it a war.

We could go a bit farther and take Philip Bobbitt's suggestion that the nation state is transitioning to the market state, an era in which what we'd now call non-state organizations will have more prominence.

Either way, it looks like a war to me. Being a war, such prisons need not only physical security but informational security. Not only does Al Qaeda not need to know where the prisons are, WE as average US citizens don't have a need to know. It doesn't bother me in the least.

8:50 AM  
Blogger P. G. said...

Oh for heaven's sake, Richard! This is not a war! If you'll read the WAPO article, you'll note that several friendly countries, including such terrorist havens as Canada and Sweeden, are opening investigations because the CIA allegedly (which for the CIA means "definitely") grabbed some of their nationals.

In what kind of a war do you kidnap the citizens of your allies without their consent?

If this thing is a "war," what isn't a war? Suppose I get a helicopter and drop leaflets denouncing Bush over Washington D.C. Can Bush decide that instead of arresting me for littering and giving me a trial, he can decide that there's a War on Gowder and dump me into a CIA prison in Poland or somewhere? Suppose someone hatched an assasination plot against the Governator. Would they be tried for murder, or would they be treated as a warring party and thrown into a CIA prison in Poland? Suppose it was a foreigner hatching the plot. Suppose it was a Muslim foreigner. Suppose it was a Muslim foreigner who did the leafletting! If someone dropped flyers over Washington D.C. saying "George Bush sucks, Allah Akbar," do they get the CIA torture prison? Suppose the flyers said "George Bush sucks, I love Osama, Allah Akbar." Now do they go to the CIA torture prison? What court will say?

What is preventing George W. Bush right now from sending soldiers to pick you or me up and load us onto a plane and fly us to some benighted foreign hell with bad water to have electrodes attached to our testicles by the CIA? What court will step in? What rule of law will protect us? Who will hear the habeas corpus petition?

The point I'm trying to make with this string of hypotheticals is this: What restraint is there on executive power under your "war is whatever we want" theory? Name one! Name one way that executive power can be checked by the constitution if you believe that wars are other than between nation-states!

1:12 PM  
Blogger sean said...

Nothing, Mr. Gowder, nothing at all but sheer good luck prevents that fascist dictator Bush from arresting you right now.

4:08 PM  
Blogger P. G. said...


Oh, that's right. I forgot that the Founders fought a revolution and set up a Constitution with no checks or balances so that we have to trust in the good faith of our all-powerful leaders.

8:18 AM  
Blogger WordReader said...

Where has common sense gone? Reading some of these comments makes me wonder how the writers can decide anything in life. They manage to talk themselves into circles.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Bill Baar said...

Go to the CIA's website. Look under employment and you'll see a video clip about the agency done by Jennifer Gardner of alias fame.

Note Wilson and Plame posed for Vanity Fair in a Jaguar as though they had watched to many James Bond flicks.

Social Security, Department of Agriculture so fortunate Hollywood doesn't do any features about them because the nexus of pop culture and politics is bad for both Hollywood and Government Agency: they both get swamped in their fake image.

Most everything about the CIA is secret. No one should be surprized the prisons are secret. If we can't hold these folks in prisons, the alternatives are kill them or let them go. What else should we do with them? They're not criminals, there at war with us.

I hope Hastert and Frist successful with their call to investigate. A CIA gone Hollywood spooks me.

4:16 PM  

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