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US: Secret CIA Prisoners Still Missing - Washington Should Reveal Fate of People ‘Disappeared’ by US
February 27, 2007 8:28 AM   Subscribe

From Human Rights Watch:
...He had spent a year and a half in captivity without even a glimpse of natural light. One day the Americans opened up a skylight in his building. “They brought me a chair and let me sit under the skylight,” he remembered. “I was so happy. I joked with them, pretending to call outside, ‘Help! Someone help me! Let me out!’” ...One photo that surprised Jabour was of a boy named Talha, who appeared to be nine or ten years old. His father was said to be Hamza al-Jofi, a militant leader in Waziristan. When Jabour saw the photo of Talha, who was apparently in custody, he expressed amazement that the United States was holding someone so young.
The Case of Marwan Jabour
US: Secret CIA Prisoners Still Missing
posted by y2karl (70 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also from Human Rights Watch:
(1) Restore Habeas Corpus

(2) Stop Renditions to Torture

(3) Abolish Secret Prisons

(5) Hold Fair Trials

(6) Prohibit Abusive Interrogations

(7) Close Guantánamo Bay

(8) Respect the Laws of War

(9) Protect Victims of Persecution From Being Defined As Terrorists
(10) End Indefinite Detention Without Charge
Ten Steps to Restore the United States' Moral Authority - A Common Sense Agenda for the 110th Congress
posted by y2karl at 8:30 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anna Nichole is dead, a sorority recently kicked out all the fat chicks, and you choose to post about this?

Good.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:33 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


If Law & Order doesn't come up with an episode addressing this, I'll just never figure out where I stand.
posted by phaedon at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2007


I am profoundly ashamed of what this country is doing.
posted by birdhaus at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Please stop witting on the thread.
posted by srboisvert at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was "profoundly ashamed" when Bush didn't resign after no WMDs were found by early-to-mid 2004 (whether or not he lied, someone needed to take major responsibility for that and where does the buck stop again?). What's about 3 mozillion steps worse than that?
posted by DU at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2007


Lets face it, kids: 9/11 has, without a doubt, jumped the shark.
posted by phaedon at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


"I joked with them, pretending to call outside, ‘Help! Someone help me! Let me out!’”

.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2007


There's something about this secret prisons story that I never quite understood. If the prisoners have no information and are of no strategic or military value, i.e. if they are innocents wrongly swept up, why hold them and why for so long? It would be logical to conclude then that at least the CIA believes they have some strategic value (even if they are wrong about that).

But if they have value, and the prisons are by the CIA's own admission extra-legal, why release them ever? Why wouldn't they just get the information out of them and then kill them? After a while, whatever info you think they have turns stale. If you hold an operative for a year, whatever he knows, even if he tells you, is probably useless. It just doesn't add up. If the CIA thinks these guys are bad guys, they would disappear, we would never hear these stories.

I wonder if the CIA/US is doing someone else's dirty work here, the way we imagine Pakistani or Egyptian prisons do the CIA's dirty work. For example, and without a shred of evidence, I wonder if this is a worldwide sweep of people hostile to the Saudi or Israeli governments? bin Laden was an anti-Saudi agitator, and you could construct a theory that the ultimate Al Qaeda objective is not to bring down the US or Israel, but to bring down saudi arabia.

Likewise, and again without a shred of evidence, the CIA could be rounding up people who might organize military action against Israel. Or maybe Russia. I don't get it.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2007


It's kind of depressing Human Rights Watch even needs to make those 10 suggestions. I mean really, you need to tell you US congress to "Stop Renditions to Torture"? That's fucked up people.
posted by chunking express at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jabour told Human Rights Watch that his legs were left shackled to each other for one and a half years. During the time his legs were shackled, he could only take small steps; the chain running from one of his ankles to the other was about 75 centimeters long.

That's obscene. If you treated a dog that way, you'd go to jail.
posted by EarBucket at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel, not to dismiss what you're saying, but a few thoughts. The entire present enterprise is premised on the notion that the United States is currently engaged in a "War on Terrorism." Despite the fact that its military engagement in Iraq has fuck-all to do with terrorism, effectively, the government needs to do something to justify the expanded powers it currently enjoys. Ergo, it holds people pegged -- rightly or wrongly -- as "terrorists" with harsh treatment to establish three things:

1. We (i.e., the US government) are currently engaged in fighting a War on Terror.

2. What we (i.e., the US government) are doing in Guantanamo Bay / Abu Ghraib / secret detention facilities / extraordinary rendition cases is necessary and justified in a national security crisis.

3. This is what we will do to anyone who we think stands in our way. (See also Iraq.)

Regardless of whether or not the first shred of useful information comes out of the detainees (though undoubtedly there is some), it establishes these things. I think that's fundamental to the ongoing US torture operation.
posted by graymouser at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think it's broader than that. Cheney has long had an "the President is the Decider" interpretation (to be generous) of the Constitution. I think a lot of the stuff the Bush Admin is doing is just to stick a finger in the eye of Congress and set a precedent for the next guy. In 2024, the President will say "If Bush could torture random citizens in 2007, then there's no reason I can't put gays in concentration camps."
posted by DU at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


You know, I used to be a turn-the-other-cheek kinda guy. But gradually all this stuff is putting me on the eye-for-an-eye path. I imagine I'm not the only one.
posted by dreamsign at 9:22 AM on February 27, 2007


DU:

I don't disagree; but because I don't feel that talk of "incipient fascism" is justified at this point, I didn't want to go all over the place. But yes, I think that the current operations are, at least in part, premised on the notion that at some point in the future, the US will want to use these techniques against a new "enemy," whether foreign or domestic. But I'd also add that this isn't exactly new; think of the people that the US allied with and trained against socialists and communists in Latin America during the '70s and '80s.
posted by graymouser at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2007


Pastabagel: I doubt there's a reason for the torture/secret prisons. Probably they just like doing it. It seems to me that a lot of "bad cop" types get off on the idea of being the tough guy, doing the dirty jobs that no one else wants to do; so much so that they'll gladly embark on dirty jobs that don't actually need to be done at all.
posted by equalpants at 9:45 AM on February 27, 2007


graymouser-

I get all that, but I think you missed my point. The CIA is sloppy here. We aren't supposed to know about this stuff, black ops, etc. We aren't supposed to know where they are being taken, and a group like Human Rights Watch shouldn't have lists of people who are missing. We aren't supposed to know any of this stuff. And yet, this story is in the news and there are websites that track the flights of the "torture taxis".

Do we know the names of soviet spies the CIA killed or interrogated during the 80's? Nope. So why do we know this?

Unless your point is that we know this stuff because the govt is communicating to us what a great job its doing in the war on terror, like some propaganda tool, I'm not sure I follow. IF it is a propaganda tool, boy, did it backfire.

I can't help but think we know this stuff, and we know the names of the people because the CIA/US govt has to communicate this information to people outside the government's official or secret communications channels who need to know it.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:47 AM on February 27, 2007



No, we know because conspiracies always leak-- especially when people involved aren't sure they're doing the right thing.
posted by Maias at 9:53 AM on February 27, 2007


One of the profound ironies of our time is that the party thatgave us, "The most frightening words in the english language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you'" has pretty quickly made the transition to, "If the government has secretly jailed someone and tortured them without a trial, and is holding them indefinitely, it must be because they're very bad."
posted by verb at 9:55 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's a really great point, verb. The government isn't to be trusted...unless what they operating in secret and illegally, then it's A-OK.
posted by DU at 10:02 AM on February 27, 2007


“I don't get it.” -posted by Pastabagel

Fear.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2007


Unless your point is that we know this stuff because the govt is communicating to us what a great job its doing in the war on terror, like some propaganda tool, I'm not sure I follow. IF it is a propaganda tool, boy, did it backfire.

Says you. I have a family full of people who believe in the WoT like it's the Two Minute Hate. They support the soldiers, by God, and cannot believe that I would wish them to get killed by letting these people go. The blood of Americans would be on my hands if this happened.

...and so on and so forth.
posted by unixrat at 10:17 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


"History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap."

It really is interesting how many times Reagan warned the country about Bush. Huh.
posted by verb at 10:19 AM on February 27, 2007


What the gov't is communicating to us is that we will be next, as Rev. Niemoller warned.
posted by localroger at 10:21 AM on February 27, 2007


Pastabagel raises an interesting point. Why was Marwan Jabour allowed to live and tell his tale? I would think that the CIA (or their proxies) would just kill these detainees after they've finished with them.
posted by MikeMc at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2007


I'm just sick and sad.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2007


Why was Marwan Jabour allowed to live and tell his tale?

Procedure. They aren't actually allowed to kill people on purpose -- yet.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2007


The CIA is sloppy here.

My guess is that there are still some good people (or maybe democrat partisans) in the system and every now and then they achieve something like the release of innocent person who is being held only to avoid administration embarrassment. Likewise the CIA is on occassion at odds with admin so they may deliberately leak to fight back.

Big giant organizations tend to have their own internal struggles. Much like countries.
posted by srboisvert at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why was Marwan Jabour allowed to live and tell his tale?

I believe sheer incompetence, too, plays a role. The Guantanamo concentration camp has been a PR disaster from the beginning ... without bringing any benefits that could not have been derived from, say, Bagram.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:04 AM on February 27, 2007


Fear.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:12 PM EST on February 27


Whose fear of what? Are we supposed to believe that these prisoners are so dangerous that the government needs to round them up, and the rules be damned, thus instilling a fear in us of the terrorists? Is this working? If this is the fear, again, why not dump them in the desert?

The Guantanamo concentration camp has been a PR disaster from the beginning ... without bringing any benefits that could not have been derived from, say, Bagram.
posted by Azaadistani at 2:04 PM EST on February 27


Guantanamo is different. It was never supposed to be secret. In was the govt's answer to the very public question asked at the start of the Afghan war of what to do with the al qaeda terrorists we capture. They aren't POWS, they aren't taliban, so ship them off to the legal neverland of a US base in Cuba.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:17 AM on February 27, 2007


Home Sweet Home
posted by timsteil at 11:19 AM on February 27, 2007


graymouser: ...I don't feel that talk of "incipient fascism" is justified at this point...

incipient: beginning to exist or appear; in an initial stage.

We are well on the way to having laid the groundwork for fascism, by many objective standards, and following specific stratagems and processes predicted by past leaders of this country from the postwar period (e.g.). Just because it doesn't look like it did in 1929-39 doesn't mean it's not true. It's a highly mutable beast.

graymouser, at just what point would you actually becomed alarmed? I would submit that if you wait much longer, your alarm will no longer matter because the McFascist police state (a la Gilliam's prescient Brazil) will be fully upon us.

So, I would argue quite the opposite: the time is NOW to talk of incipient fascism, to give us at least a fighting chance of stopping it from cementing itself here. I despair because I thing that too many people are a bit too concerned about sounding "temperate" and so aren't willing to call a spade a spade.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why was Marwan Jabour allowed to live and tell his tale?

Because of human beings' innate moral sense. In a word, guilt.

To some extent evil is an emergent property of behaviors that in the small seem reasonable. The individuals who are part of these immoral bureaucracies are not purely evil. They may commit evil collectively, and even on occasion individually--but they still need to view themselves as decent people. Hence, overall behavior of the system is, in a sense, inconsistent: Kindnesses do occur. A notion of fairness and justice is never totally eradicated.

This is especially true for Americans because our civic ethos profoundly resonates with deep respect for individual rights, justice, and just plain fairness. Those who admonish us about the need to "have the stomach to do what needs to be done" are really trying to get us to leave our consciences behind as we walk onto the killing floor. But this is hard to do for a culture that has not already descended into total savagery. Even the Nazi's needed to feel there was a "good reason", one beyond mere fear and hatred, to send people to death camps.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


But if they have value, and the prisons are by the CIA's own admission extra-legal, why release them ever? Why wouldn't they just get the information out of them and then kill them?

Because there is often a critical error made on the part of people opposed to this practice: They assume that bacause an evil act is occuring, the practitioners are evil. But for the most part, they are not; they are far more dangerous in fact, they are pragmatic idealists. They believe. They only detain and "agressively question" to save innocent people's lives. They have a code and a rationalization system that lets them sleep at night. They are not "monsters", or at least not in the sense that they will just cap some guy to keep him quite. At the minimum they will have a tribunal, and a firing squad. It is their belief (and the code behind it) that lets them keep doing it. Of course, if they stay in isolation as a closed system, the system will tend to justify more and more acts to itself; this is pretty easy to observe in many things.

Instead of thinking "why do those monsters do what they do", ask yourself "what would I do if I genuinely believed these were evil men and only I stood between them and the lives of thousands of innocents" and then imagine yourself surrounded by like minded people and no outside input or questioning. Go down that path. Be honest with yourself. Become immersed in it. I bet many of use might be surprised what we can do and rationalize it.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


Ah, mondo dentro is saying exactly what I wanted to say, but more eloquently :)
posted by Bovine Love at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2007


Wow, what a lot of mis-spellings. Sigh.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:41 AM on February 27, 2007


Aw shucks, BL. I thought the same thing about you!
posted by mondo dentro at 11:42 AM on February 27, 2007


Who was it that said that fascism was like cancer: hard to diagnose at the early stages but largely harmless - clearly apparent at the later stages but almost impossible to remove...
posted by fingerbang at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2007


“kill them all let god sort them out”

Pretty sure God already did sort them out (at least in terms of the orign of that quote):
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.” (Matthew)

Not that I have a problem with killing. But I don’t, y’know, speak for God.

“If this is the fear, again, why not dump them in the desert?”

You don’t kill an enemy to spread fear. Or strand them. In addition to avoiding the martyrdom of the dead you get hostages (does no good if no one knows you’re holding them) plus the threat of this happening to you or someone in your family. Prolonging closure in this way causes real pain across a broad spectrum.
Pastabagel you’re fairly well read - all the same reasons the Soviets had the psikhushkas and the gulag and the black mariahs and indeed, you don’t really have to grab someone guilty of anything, just nail a link in the chain (f’rinstance Lev Kamenev - former head of the Soviet Union - his kid was arrested, charged with terrorism and subjected to months of interrogation - pretty much broke his father down)
Your underlying assumption appears to be that there isn’t a nefarious reason behind this. Now certainly not everyone in the CIA might have this as an ulterior motive anymore than a rank and file soldier has full knowlege of the basis behind all his country’s policies. But it’s the same form whether the same function is intended or not. And the practical upshot is so similar on the broad scale that one has to conclude that - even if it isn’t why it exists, it is what is being done with it’s existance. That is - spreading fear and demoralizing the enemies of the state.

I mean, what was the point of McCarthyism? Same deal. The actual terms are irrelevent to the system created. It is what it does.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:59 AM on February 27, 2007


mondo dentro:

Talk about "incipient fascism" is problematic because it isn't very clear about what fascism is. And in short, I think that actual fascism is the ideology of imperialism and capitalism in a crisis that cannot be solved within the bounds of democracy. This was the case in Italy, Germany, and Spain, where Fascism rose amidst fears of Communist revolution (or, in Spain's case, an actual revolution, though it was primarily anarcho-syndicalist). For better or worse, we're nowhere near that in this day and age.

There are elements of the current situation that would be of use to fascists in today's political scene, and not just the degradation of civil liberties that's going on via the War on Terror(tm). The Minuteman Project has some of the elements of middle-class thuggery that has historically attended fascism, an idea the Italian fascists evidently got from the Ku Klux Klan. And I think it is possible that several years down the road, if the economy collapses or a war breaks out that really destablizes things here, fascism will be possible and you'll need mass mobilizations to fight against it. But, in its current state, the US is not about to experience the kind of breakdown that would precipitate actual fascism, and the best that can be done is to fight against all the things that would aid fascists down the road.
posted by graymouser at 12:01 PM on February 27, 2007


Those are some very eloquent explanations, mondo dentro and Bovine Love.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:05 PM on February 27, 2007


+ what was (very well) said above in terms of execution of policy.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:05 PM on February 27, 2007



I think it is possible that several years down the road, if the economy collapses or a war breaks out that really destablizes things here, fascism will be possible...the best that can be done is to fight against all the things that would aid fascists down the road...

Agreed. And on the strongest terms.

This, then, is a semantic disagreement about what exactly qualifies as "incipient". I would say that those things you want to fight against now are precisely what I am taking as "incipiently fascist".

The extent to which authoritarian/ theocratic/ rightist/ corporatist ideological positions have made inroads in our republic is significant enough that I fear it has become brittle, and will fracture at the next significant shock. We're not there yet, but we're too damn close. Since our near-term future seems highly probable to be crisis-ridden (on a variety of fronts), I am much more inclined than you to push the fascist alarm button.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2007


The extent to which authoritarian/ theocratic/ rightist/ corporatist ideological positions have made inroads in our republic is significant enough that I fear it has become brittle, and will fracture at the next significant shock. We're not there yet, but we're too damn close.

You can simplify it even more than that. I'm firmly of the belief that if you can (through whatever machinations are necessary) put yourself in the shoes of Joe Everyman ten years ago, you can use that as a pretty good indicator of how badly things are going. If you had asked the average person in 1997 what his or her opinion was of a government with an executive who was appointed by judges selected by his father, who had undertaken a major military operation on pretenses that have openly been demonstrated to be mendacious (and in the process of doing so had suspended habeus corpus and created secret military prisons), the response would have been unequivocal: "Your country has been hijacked by fascism."

The waters have been muddied by the means to the end, and the lengths to which the government is going to prevent open reporting and open dissent are staggering, but as soon as you can establish some sort of objective baseline, it becomes pretty apparent that some Really Bad Shit has gone down. Pressed for a quantifiable line in the sand during the Clinton years, most of us would have chosen a point that has long since been surpassed.
posted by Mayor West at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Smedlyman-

So we seem to agree that the public exposure part of this is intentional, right?

You sort of make my point with your analogy to the Soviet Union, because while we know what the Soviets did, we have no idea what the CIA did in the 60's-80's (ok, maybe you do, but you and the rest of us are not similarly situated with respect to a lot of these issues). These things were secret. Where were the US gulags in the 60's? How many assasinations and kidnappings were perp'ed by the CIA in the 70's at the height of the cold war?

The hostages/projection of emotional pain makes some amount of sense, but scale of this prison undertaking is way too small for the population its intended to terrorize. Furthermore, it presumes a media penetration in Iraq and the Middle East that I think is wrong.

Furthermore, you make the point that you don't always have to get the top guy, you can get a link in the chain. But if this propaganda tool (which is sort of what you are describing) is effective, why even bother with real people at all? Sure you grab a few here and there, so their families get on Al Jazeera and project the requisite anguish, but for every one that's real why not make up another dozen fictitious captives, if the public knowledge about the imprisonment is an effective tool? Surely lying to the enemy is more ethical than torturing them?

I guess my frustration here is that this is the CIA we are talking about - playing fast and loose with the enemy's impression of the truth is their job. They are supposed to be secretive and invisible. This mess is all over the news. I can't help but think that this story being blown so totally wide open is serving some notice function to interests that want very specific people dealt with.

On preivew, this:
The extent to which authoritarian/ theocratic/ rightist/ corporatist ideological positions have made inroads in our republic is significant enough that I fear it has become brittle, and will fracture at the next significant shock. We're not there yet, but we're too damn close. Since our near-term future seems highly probable to be crisis-ridden (on a variety of fronts), I am much more inclined than you to push the fascist alarm button.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:12 PM EST on February 27
strikes me as wrong in an "End of History" kind of way. The corporatist ideology, whatever form it takes, is dependent upon consumer consumption (vs. durable or business consumption). But every on every metric that matters, the long term trend is against this - chasing the long tail, conservation, looming energy crises, etc. - all mitigate against the level of spending that would support the widespread corporate takeover. Too many small players, too much importation, and a growing guilt among many consumers over how much they consume in the face of falling prices (too much to discuss at length, but in my estimation the key divide between red and blue american or left and right, whatever, is the emtional investment in consumption - bigger/more is better vs. smaller/ less - and hence the knee jerk seemingly bizarre emotional reaction to things like whether global warming is real or not.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:33 PM on February 27, 2007


“If you had asked the average person in 1997 what his or her opinion was ... the response would have been unequivocal”

Indeed. Many of the “conservatives” who were howling at government encroachment back then are absolutely silent now. Or indeed are cheerleaders at what would be, were they perpetrated by a democrat, absolutely characterized as fascism.

Reminds me of this:
“Perhaps the most serious threat of 'galloping conservatism' is that in a time of crisis it could easily be transformed into full-blown fascism. When people are afraid, they are susceptible to trading away their civil liberties to protect their 'things'. One of the archapostles of conservative economics, Milton Friedman, has already said that, given the choice between preserving American constitutional freedoms and the economic freedom to make a dollar without interference, he would choose economic freedom hands down. How tragically ironic it would be if conservative Americans bartered away their constitutional liberties to preserve their affluent lifestyles!” - Tom Sine, "The Mustard Seed Conspiracy,"  1981

(That it’s the (very Christian) Sine making that admonishment is, given the current state of the GOP, all the more ironic)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2007


Smedleyman:

Well, we have seen a lot of really bad shit in the past. But Sine's basic idea in that quote isn't wrong; it's just that fascism wasn't the outcome, and wasn't an inevitable outcome, of Reaganism. Likewise, fascism isn't the inevitable outcome of Bushism -- but there are still building blocks of it, should the need arise.

This is why I'm much more cautious than mondodentro on calling the fascist panic: you don't want to be the "boy who cried fascist" when the real thing comes. But it's still important to raise as much hue and cry over every loss of civil liberties, every depredation at home and abroad, that does happen. You just can't wear the average concerned sympathetic person out waiting for a fascism that doesn't come, but you also can't be caught asleep at the switch.
posted by graymouser at 12:46 PM on February 27, 2007


I guess the question for me, graymouser, is: do you want to be the one who says "Fascism is coming!" when it's too early, or the one who says "Fascism is here!" when it's too late?
posted by davejay at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2007


and what defines that line, when the eroding is done bit by bit by bit?
posted by davejay at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2007


...strikes me as wrong in an "End of History" kind of way...

Actually, I agree with this, in part.

I do not believe that the rightism that I'm talking about will work in the long run. It's not scalable, I guess would be the most succinct way for me to put it.

Problem is, in order to truly show that it is disfunctional, many many people may have to die. Nazi Germany provides a nice example of this, as well.

Once the mass insanity kicks in, there is no way to stop it. It just has to run it's course--at great cost to the world.


The corporatist ideology, whatever form it takes, is dependent upon consumer consumption


Spoken like a true member of the Reality-Based Community. You seem to be assuming that the decisions are being made rationally using a cost function that maximizes the greatest good for the greatest number. It ain't.

A huge reason I think constitutional democratic republics can not tolerate excessive income disparities is that, past a certain point, self interest is destructive (contrary to what rigid capitalist ideology would tell you): If I can make 100 billion bucks doing something that fucks up 90% of the planet, why should I care? Me and 1000 of my best friends will build a biodome and live the sweet life, and y'all, well, y'all just need to get right with God!

Now, if people think this, are they sane? No, but, you know--was Hitler sane? Is bin Laden sane? Is Cheney sane?
posted by mondo dentro at 12:58 PM on February 27, 2007


The corporatist ideology, whatever form it takes, is dependent upon consumer consumption

Spoken like a true member of the Reality-Based Community.


Score one for branding. I'm actually only assuming that each person acts/consumes in his own profit maximizing self-interest. However, I'd include in that an emotional contentment component that makes some people feel guilty when they buy an SUV for their growing family and makes the same people feel progressive or cultures when they buy an iPod. The reason car companies can't keep selling tons of SUV's isn't because they destroy the planet (they might, but that isn't the reason) it's because with each passing day more and more people are feel uncomfortable with the idea of personally owning one. The corporation is enslaved to the consumer, who may choose to consume less for very personal reasons not connected to political ideology.

But to bring this back around to the topic at hand, this prison scandal exists in the context of a war between two sides, one who cares about people being killed, and the other that couldn't care less, and in fact kills rather indiscriminately. Thus, the prison story would fail to instill fear in the group of people that set of bombs in markets, but it would instill fear in the people that care about all the casualities. But the government doing the imprisoning represents the people who are worried about the killing. So they are only instilling fear in their own people, which is perhaps the point, but I'm more inclined to believe that there are meetings where US officials are being told to round up X Y and Z and we are doing it. And if true that would piss me off, a bit.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:18 PM on February 27, 2007


“Surely lying to the enemy is more ethical than torturing them?
I guess my frustration here is that this is the CIA we are talking about - playing fast and loose with the enemy's impression of the truth is their job.”

I think your frustration stems from placing human rights and ethics as a factor. Indeed, I suspect it’s your very reasonableness that works against you. (tongue in cheek - although I do find a good deal of your commentary very insightful)
What makes terror - terror - is it’s very unreasonableness. There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason, or even a large number of people to be grabbed. It’s probably better if you grab some poor schlub who doesn’t know anything about anything and torture the crap out of him.
And of course they have to be real people. Otherwise the entire illusion would collapse. It’s not enough for the enemy to believe it, you have to believe it as well.
Of course, it helps if he’s connected. Maybe it’s someone’s brother or uncle or cousin - whatever. Not everyone has to know in the typical avenues propaganda takes. These things will follow through the chains to the right people. And in that way, it’s better if everyone doesn’t know. If I’m Joe Terrorist somewhere up in the rarified cells - ‘C’ or ‘B’ level say - and I’ve heard the CIA grabbed my 2nd cousin, but I’ve heard nothing in the news, but I can’t find him and neither can anyone else in the network - yeah, that’d make me nervous.

You’re also mistaking what the CIA does for what they used to do (not an uncommon thing, they strive for it). Military intelligence plays fast and loose and beguiles the enemy (the National Intelligence Agency used to do this before they got absorbed by the CIA). Pretty much only the DIA does that now (mostly manages - along with the other groups under the DoD)
The CIA is an independent agency in the community. (Kinda funky - after Reagan signed EO 12333 everyone focused on assassinations, but it orders the heads of all federal agencies to comply with the CIA requests for info...guess that wasn’t explicit enough cosidering the debate about intelligence over 9/11).

Speculation aside - what the CIA does is something else. Making that beguilement, the illusion, real.
And indeed, the mess is all over the news - so?
You see?
I’m going to grab this guy, beat the snot out of him, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.
It works really well ‘cos you’ve established your power.
It’s utterly implausible (from the inside and on the broad public scale) that your organization would do this to some random guy. There has to be a reason for it (just as you’re looking for one). So what is it? Well, he’s a terrorist, ok? Or we thought he was one. But he’s not a good guy. But maybe we’ll let him go, but that’s for us to decide, not you.

I’m not saying this is the overt policy. It’s just how the thing works. The policy itself - nor any of the resulting actions - don’t have to make sense. What has to be reenforced is the authority. Whatever form that takes. Power needs to be exercised. This is it.
Really, torture is sorta the last outpost. Once that’s tacitly granted, you’re able to do just about anything.
And indeed, that’s why this level of information is at the level of confidence it’s at in the public sphere.
Has it been on the 6 o’clock news? No. Have we heard about it? Yes. Is it plausibly deniable in the American public’s mind - I mean - can we collectively say ‘well, we weren’t certain that was actually going on’ -? Certainly seems like it.
Gotta keep it in that eigenstate. And that’s the CIA’s job.

I apologize for the way I explain that, but it’s hard to be perfectly clear about it. I mean people in the Soviet Union all knew about the black mariahs without it being in Pravda. And that schism in the information was by design.

“This is why I'm much more cautious than mondodentro on calling the fascist panic: you don't want to be the "boy who cried fascist" when the real thing comes.”

Fair enough. I think you both have your points. I’m not attacking either position. I will say though, wouldn’t one of the objectives of any movement to power be to cloak it’s movements? I mean, I don’t know that there’s going to come a point where we all explicitly - within the country that is - agree we’re living in a fascist state. And indeed - would it be enough like fascism to call it that? I really don’t know.

Any authoritarian system is ultimately self-defeating anyway, mostly due to the need for clear communication and feedback. Which you never get in an atmosphere of fear: “The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life.”
posted by Smedleyman at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2007


Americans. If you all died tomorrow, I for one wouldn't shed a tear.
posted by mr. strange at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2007


It really is interesting how many times Reagan warned the country about Bush. Huh.

Link or citation, please? I'd really like to read more about this.
posted by jokeefe at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2007


...two sides, one who cares about people being killed, and the other that couldn't care less, and in fact kills rather indiscriminately...

While I get your larger point, aren't you at least a tiny bit self conscious about making this claim?

Yes, in our society we have killers, and people who don't like to see people killed. Why are you so sure their society is different?

And then there's simple quantitative comparisons: one of the "peculiar" things about us is, for a people who car about people being killed, we sure are good at it. Which side has killed the most? My guess is, ours. By several orders of magnitude.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2007


Americans. If you all died tomorrow, I for one wouldn't shed a tear.

Come on, mr. strange. Have you not been reading the thread? One of the foundations of fascism is the hatred and fear of others based only on their culture, language, or nationality. Get a grip.
posted by jokeefe at 1:35 PM on February 27, 2007


I don't think secret prisons as terror really works; I know what you are getting at, but it is a big stretch. The kind of terror you are talking about is bombing a village that is "harbouring" terrorists/insurgents/whatever. Or an air-strike against a "leaders" car, even (especially) when it is in a populated area. The idea is to transfer blame and terror; I am afraid to be around insurgents because I might get killed, or my brother got killed because he was near an insurgent. This gets the populace to turn against the "bad guys" in order to protect themselves.

Of course this has to be very very carefully managed (with the requisite propaganda) or the populace turns against you.

The prison thing, as terror, doesn't really fly I think.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:36 PM on February 27, 2007


“The prison thing, as terror, doesn't really fly I think.”

In order to exercise power you have to act as though you have it. So, yeah, not so much terror per se as the message.
I suppose my point is best captured in a quote from the first link:
“They said that KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] had spent some time in the dog box and then he talked.  They kept threatening me: ‘We could do this to you.’”

Consider that with everything we know on the table (and in this thread). Of course the objective could be brainwashing and turning individuals in custody. Any number of things. It could even be the result of ineptitude. Some folks posit some sick thrill on the part of the torturers and vicarious thrill on the part of some officials. Bit simplistic, but even so - the practical result is the same - ‘we can do this to you.’
It’s a tautological assertion with no point other than itself.
Anyone with the slightest knowlege of interrogation knows how pointless torture ultimately is in gaining useful real world knowlege. It’s a political tool, not a military one.
But all that’s fairly broad based in scope. I’m not addressing details per se. Mostly speculating on what’s being circulated around as rationale. Plenty of far more practical ways of dealing with an enemy, and indeed, of bringing your own country to war without, say, lying. Haven’t seen much on those methods from this administration either. Lot of acting like certain offices carry a whole plateful of various powers though.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on February 27, 2007


It seems to me that a lot of what this administration does is test the limits--and it has found there are none, so it pushes a little further, and so on. It turns out the public are sheep, collectively; xenophobic, racist, selfish, afraid...there is no confidence nor boldness left in the public at large, no one will speak up, be heard. We've all got other troubles. The Bush Administration has used this passivity to empower the executive branch to a frightful extent, while the organizations which should be watching--congress, the justice system, and the press--sit on their hands.

I'm not saying the sole motive for having the prisons is to see what they can get away with, but I think it's one of them.

The joke among people following domestic auto manufacturers is that there is the "big 2.5" referring to Chrysler's deference to their "partner" Daimler. Likewise, when one of the parties in a two party system is absent, we get a 1.5 party system. The Republican string-pullers must actually be frustrated by the Democrats; the Ds have rolled over so completely that it's very apparent that this is a one-party government. As the party in power, you want some opposition, preferably vocal, on minor issues of state so you can distract people away from the big picture.

And really, if people are willing to wave the flag and think that these foreign CIA prisons are OK, are those people likely to cheer less loudly when "guest worker" camps are opened in the desert southwest?

Finally, think about this: The goal of this administration isn't to be known as great statesmen, vanquishing dictatorships and spreading freedom, or of advancing the social sciences or any of that crap: their goal is to simply transfer as much public wealth to the private sector (read, their friends) as they can. War is a great vehicle to do that, and its also a great vehicle to distract people while it's going on.

These people do not love America or your average American, who they have not a whit in common with. If this country collapses they all have other places in the world they can call home, and will read with interest and a small smirk the news brought to them over breakfast about what is happening in their former homeland.
posted by maxwelton at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


We aren't supposed to know about this stuff, black ops, etc.

Actually, Pastabagel, I think we are. When prisoners are released, they tell their story. I think keeping the populace scared that they might be put in this kind of secret prison keeps a lot of people quiet. While I doubt that actual terrorists are going to be scared of prisons, secret or not, I don't think the target audience is terrorists. I think it's us.
posted by smashingstars at 3:14 PM on February 27, 2007


pastabagel:
Do we know the names of soviet spies the CIA killed or interrogated during the 80's? Nope. So why do we know this?

GOOGLE?
posted by notreally at 3:34 PM on February 27, 2007


The funny thing about secret prisions, torture and all that, is that none of it (the Torture Apparatus, if you will) is actually used to prevent terrorism/crime whatever. It can't do that. It's not even designed to do that.

Think about the people we picked up in Afghanistan after 9/11. Still rotting away in Gitmo, still sleeping in tiger cages, reading the Quran, going on hunger strikes and so on. Any information they might have had about Al Qaeda (if they were indeed Al Qaeda fighters) is now six years out of date and completely useless.

I think you can make a cogent argument that in the world of mass communication and asymetric warfare, any intelligence (that is, enemy disposition, plans, abilities) you recieve thats more than six weeks out of date begins to border on useless.

Also, torture (which includes the kind of "breaking" interrogation that we've collectively decided "isn't really" torture) doesn't produce reliable intelligence. We all know that. The CIA knows that. Even the fucking KGB knew that, ad infintium.

So the question here is this: Why did the North Vietmanese torture the shit out of John McCain and his fellow captured pilots in the Hanoi Hilton? Its not like they could have provided any information that the VC's would have found useful. Technical specs on military aircraft are easy enough to find. American OOB in Vietnam was mostly well known, or could have been provided by the Soviets or Chinese. Any upcoming attacks or plans the USN was going to make would have been obsolete within a few weeks anyway.

No, the VC's beat the shit out of those pilots because they could.

And thats why we do it today. Because we can. You give the torturers too much credit if you invest them with some kind of grand strategy involving strategic goals at home or abroad.

They do it because they can. Because it's been approved by Authority. But mostly because they can.
posted by Avenger at 3:58 PM on February 27, 2007


from National Law Journal: CAMP 6 AT GUANTANAMO
posted by amberglow at 6:21 PM on February 27, 2007


The funny thing about secret prisions, torture and all that, is that none of it (the Torture Apparatus, if you will) is actually used to prevent terrorism/crime whatever. It can't do that. It's not even designed to do that.

ahahaha hahahhaa haaaa ahaaha... no, wait. I don't get it.
posted by pompomtom at 7:23 PM on February 27, 2007


One reason to hang onto prisoners indefinitely is that if they were not dangerous terrorists when they went in, it is quite likely they would be if released. Sort of a Catch 22.
posted by JackFlash at 7:45 PM on February 27, 2007


Funny-peculiar, pompomtom, not funny-ha-ha.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:18 PM on February 27, 2007


Think about the people we picked up in Afghanistan after 9/11. Still rotting away in Gitmo, still sleeping in tiger cages, reading the Quran, going on hunger strikes and so on. Any information they might have had about Al Qaeda (if they were indeed Al Qaeda fighters) is now six years out of date and completely useless.

Is that really the point? Or is it that:
a) they originally might have had some useful info,
b) some of them may have been dangerous but without evidence can't be charged, and
c) a good number who weren't dangerous surely are now, having been innocents tortured by a world power that evidently hates them, their religion, and cares not for the freedoms it supposedly holds dear.

I think it's a lock-them-up-throw-away-key situation.

Argh. or what JackFlash just said.
posted by dreamsign at 12:48 AM on February 28, 2007


Come on, mr. strange. Have you not been reading the thread? One of the foundations of fascism is the hatred and fear of others based only on their culture, language, or nationality. Get a grip.

No, jokeefe it is you who needs to get a grip. Tolerance does not mean allowing fascists to undermine the fabric of your society. Tolerance does not mean accepting craven abdication of the responsibilities that go with freedom.

Bush and his clique aren't the problem - every society has extremists. The USA is a democracy. You voted for fascism, or you didn't bother to vote, or you didn't care enough to argue your point with that idiot co-worker, or whatever.

Marwan Jabour's shameful treatment is your fault.
posted by mr. strange at 5:23 AM on February 28, 2007


mr. strange is right--it's our fault, and it's all being done in our names. We are supposed to be the bosses of our elected officials.
posted by amberglow at 5:49 AM on February 28, 2007


“We are supposed to be the bosses of our elected officials.” -posted by amberglow

One of the aims, I’d speculate, of torture. That is, not only to create the idea that there is some set of people who it is ok to torture (attacking the foundation of human rights as an absolute), but to insinuate that there are certain areas in which the citizenry cannot be the authority. Indeed, given the distaste most people have for torture yet are willing to make consessions to it (much like rabid anti-hunting folks will still eat steak) it seems ideally suited to this kind of task.
Authority says “here - let me take this horrific responsibility off your hands” and we aquiesce, for the most part, because gee, maybe it will keep us safe, but I sure don’t want to do it.

Suddenly, we’re NOT supposed to be the bosses of elected officials - at least in certain areas. I mean hey, it’s national security. There are bad guys out there. This is for your own good, see?

But while we might cede power (whether because we have no balls, or we’re confused or even for what look like good solid reasons) we cannot cede responsibility.
The German people are still guilt ridden over the holocaust. People born after it still overreact at anything connected to it. Similarly - the U.S. still bears the scars from slavery.
We can say that it wasn’t our fault because we weren’t in charge, but the truth is, it is always going to be our responsibility.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:34 PM on February 28, 2007


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