The Supreme Court has declined to consider the appeal of Khaled el-Masri. He’s the German citizen of Lebanese descent who was kidnapped by agents of the U.S. government, whisked away to a secret overseas prison camp, and tortured. Fortunately, they didn’t execute him because he turned out to be innocent. Yes, that’s right—after being labeled and designated an “enemy combatant terrorist,” it turned out that it was all a mistake. And when U.S. officials realized their mistake, they ignominiously dumped el-Masri in some remote part of Albania, without even a “We’re sorry.”
El-Masri sued but a federal court of appeals held that his case could not even go to trial. Why? The government told the court that to allow el-Masri to proceed to trial would require the disclosure of important government secrets relating to national security. The court of appeals bought it and the Supreme Court has let the decision stand.
Never mind that el-Masri has told his story to news media all over the world. And never mind that the United States is still standing despite the government’s national-security claim.
So, there you have it: the federal government has the post-9/11 omnipotent authority to kidnap anyone it wants, send him into a secret dungeon or camp run either by the U.S. government or a brutal foreign regime, torture him or have him tortured, and keep him detained him for as long as it wants. And the government has immunity from both civil and criminal liability. It all has to remain secret because national security depends on it.
Meanwhile, President Bush continues to mouth his favorite mantra, “We don’t torture people.” No, we just waterboard them, beat them, freeze them, sexually abuse them, and sometimes accidentally kill them, after kidnapping, blindfolding, and railroading them into a dark and ominous torture camp in the middle of the night. That’s not torture. How can it be torture when we don’t torture?
And all this without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. Pardon me for asking a unpleasant question but isn’t that the way things operate in Burma?
Meanwhile, everyone should just keep singing to himself, “Well, thank God I am an American because at least I know I’m free.” Well, except for the fact that they’re able to do the same thing to Americans that they did to el-Masri. Just ask the federal judge in the Jose Padilla case.