Friday, November 4

Why Secret Detentions are Neccesary

Crossposted on Dailykos:

Recently, it's been reported that the EU plans to investigate reports of Secret CIA Dentention Centers in Former Eastern Block Countries

EU to Investigate Allegations of CIA Jails

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union and the continent's top human rights group said Thursday they will investigate allegations the CIA set up secret jails in eastern Europe and elsewhere to interrogate terror suspects, and the Red Cross demanded access to any prisoners.

Certainly this Administration has blatant ignored Human Rights issues as they apply to suspected terrorist, but there is also another view -- that the U.S. and other nations actually have a legitimate and valid need to hold some terror suspects incommunicado for Security Reasons.

In his book Imperial Hubris Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Desk addresses the subject of repeated and costly al Qaeda leaks.

Beyond the growing volume of leaks, there has been a sharp increase in leaking data that has no clear purpose in terms of shaping U.S. domestic or foreign policies but rather a form of bragging to the world and the enemy about what we know and how we know it.

... Leaks are a major factor limiting the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to defeat Osama bin Laden, et al. The first serious leak about al Qaeda was in the Washington Times after the 20 August 1998 U.S. cruise missle attack on al Qaeda camps near Khowst, Afghanistan. The attack was in response to the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania thirteen days earlier. In the 24 August Times article, "Senior" U.S. Department of Defense officials revealed that precise U.S. targeting of the camps was based on electronically intercepting bin Laden's conversations.

... Said one U.S. official: "We want to see who is still using the same cell phone numbers,'" Apparently these genius leakers had decided it was time to make sure the terrorist would not use the phone again. Well, as night follows day, the intelligence community lost this priceless advantage when bin Laden and his men stopped using the phones.

... Because of such [sic] leaks, the United States cannot fully exploit its clandestine services's numerous, often astounding captures of senior al Qaeda fighters. From the capture of Abu Zubaydah in March 2002 to that of Khalid bin Attah in March 2003, word of the arrests has been leaked by senior U.S. officials within days,, and often hours of their occurrence.

...I can say with confidence that the most damaging leaks about al Qaeda come from the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the White House. A reliable rule of thumb for the reader is that the federal agencies who have done least to protect America from al Qaeda leak the most to take credit for others' work and disguise their years of failure.

The point that Scheuer makes in an important one - Leaks Are Bad. Very Bad, and quite frequently can have deadly consequences to those trying to protect us. And although it goes against the normal standards of criminal jurisprudence, there are some good reasons to maintain security involving the arrest and capture of critical terrorist personnel and assets - just as the U.S. maintained the secret that we had broken the Japanese codes just prior to the start of World War II.

With secret possession of a high-value target, U.S. and other intelligence agencies have the possibility of spoofing the opposition by sending in either physically or electronic duplicates of that suspect. Al-Qaeda does a great deal of it's communications through secure email and websites. If you've captured a person with the access codes to these sites - we can use those codes to plant our own propoganda and phony operations plans where we set the target, the time-table and flush out the terrorists in a trap. However, as Scheuer points out, all of this type of counter-intelligence work and tradecraft falls apart once the deception is revealed.

Something as seemly insignificant as a phone number for a contact, can be enough of a thread to start unravelling a terrorist cell, but once it becomes known that a person possesing that number has been captured - it can quickly useless become just as Bin Laden's Satellite phones did.

This practice however, should never be a carte-blanch arrangement.

What we need to do is establish a clear policy that may maintain the secrecy of these detainee - while such secrecy is justified - but also ensure that Secrecy is not simply being used as a pretext to allow for their inhumane treatment and torture. Although they may be held incommunicado for a time, that detention can not be allowed to be extended indefinately.

By all reasonable accounts there is a finite window when actionable intelligence may be gained from such suspects, and most importantly a finite window when the fact of their capture can be kept a secret - and you may be able to gleam some real intelligence from their unwitting associate who don't realize that they've been compromised. If at any point "cover is blown" for any such spoofing operation -- there would no longer be any good reason to keep the capture a secret. Therefore there should be some sort of established "request for secure detention" procedure in place, one that list the reasons why this persons capture should not be revealed -- reasons which would be periodically checked and verified on a regular basis.

Clearly, the current policy U.S. is a very long way from this -- the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad has been far from a secret, yet he has become one of "The Disappeared" -- but as we legitimately support the efforts of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch to shut down these clandestine detention centers, we also have to realize that our goal is not only to better protect both American Citizens, but also protect the rights and humanity of those who may be completely innocent of any wrong doing what-so-ever.

We have to take serious what Sy Hersh stated well over a year ago:

My government has a secret unit that since December of 2001 has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and the Argentineans did. Rumsfeld decided after 9/11 that he could not wait. The president signed a secret document…There's a team of people, they fly in unmarked planes, they fly in Gulfstreams, they have their own choppers, they don't carry American passports, and they just grab people. And maybe in the beginning I can understand there was some rationale. Right after 9/11 we were frightened, we didn't know what to do …"

If we fail to get control of this - not only will the sad irony of using former Gulags for these detentions will not soon fade, the terrorism will continue to grow intense - stoked by the flames of righteous indignation at the hypocracy of our violation not just of the Geneva Conventions, but the U.S. Constitution (5th, 14th and 8th Amendments - "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted"), U.S. Federal Law (Title 18, Chapter 113C prohibiting Torture) and Uniform Code of Military Justice (Section 893, Article 94 prohibitions against "Cruelty and Maltreatment").


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