Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Renditions coming back to bite the CIA?

I would guess that if you're a CIA agent worried about being prosecuted under the War Crimes Act for those pesky "alternative" interrogation procedures David Addington and Al Gonzales told you were A-Okay, you're probably heaving a sigh of relief about now. It appears it's a slam dunk that Congress is going to rubber stamp W.'s diktat that interrogators who might have gone a little too far, get a pass -- and retroactively no less.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, since W. hasn't gotten around to admitting that his administration kidnaps people from all over the world and sends them to third countries for torture sessions; Congress hasn't yet had a chance to make that legal too. If you happen to have been one of those agents involved in rendering foreign nationals in Germany or Italy over the past few years, you might want to make sure your insurance policy on torture is up to date.

Newsweek reports that German prosecutors are preparing to bring charges in the 2004 rendition case of German national Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri -- for all you trying to keep track of all the rendition cases -- was abducted in Macedonia by masked CIA officials in 2004 and flown to Afghanistan where he was beaten and imprisoned for four months. After figuring out that el-Masri had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, the CIA flew him to Albania where they dumped him in a field in the middle of nowhere.

Although, his lawsuit against the CIA was dismissed on national security grounds, the Germans are still interested. Well, reluctantly so anyway. It seems that a report by the German TV show "Panorama" last week has forced the hands of prosecutors in Munich. Panorama says it has discovered the identities of 20 CIA agents who participated in el-Masri's rendition. Just as in the 2003 case of Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan (aka Abu Omar) who was snatched off the streets of Milan, the agents left plenty of calling cards behind them. The article says Panorama aired "records showing the officials had massages at a Majorca hotel after the alleged abduction." A former German counterterror official quoted in the article says local prosecutors now have no choice but to issue arrest warrants.

The Bush administration might have no problem dismissing the Italian arrest warrants for 19 CIA agents involved in the Abu Omar case, but Germany is a whole other can of worms. Remember, Angela Merkel is W.'s back massage buddy, if she quashes the investigation things could go south for her in a hurry. W. isn't exactly beloved in Germany. There were already suspicions that Gerhard Schroeder and his government's complicity in el-Marsri's kidnapping, this might just bust the German intelligence service's role out into the open, making things very uncomfortable for Angela.

She apparently hasn't yet cottoned on to the fact that being W.'s friend can drastically shorten your political career and wreck your reputation. Just ask Jose Maria Aznar, Silvio Berlusconi, Tony B-liar, Vincente Fox, Steven Harper, Colin Powell, Christine Todd Witman, Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, John Snow, Hamid Karzai, Pervez Musharrif, Nuri al-Maliki, King Abdullah II, etc.

What really amazes about the CIA in these rendition cases -- that we know about anyway -- is the fact that they would leave such an easy trail behind them to follow. I mean, if the Italians could track their every move by credit card and cell phone records, how undercover were they? W. is all about hiding every little thing from the public his government does in their name, yet these guys were gallivanting around Europe snatching up people and putting them on planes, which could be very easily tracked, like they were on vacation or something.

To me, this just shows the sense of impunity this government operates under. They can commit the most outrageous crimes and no one is allowed to call them on it. This is starting to change, though. The CIA interrogators at W.'s black prisons who refused to keep torturing until their status was "clarified," which then forced W to transfer the "al-Qaeda 14" to Gitmo, have come to the realization that crime doesn't pay. Whether W. & Co. have figured that out is yet to be seen.


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