Saturday, March 03, 2007

Toture and torture: Still making the news

Somehow I missed two stories which have been brewing for quite a while. Actually, it's not the stories I missed -- I've been tracking renditions and torture -- but it is the specifics of these two people that I missed. A former member of the Army who admits to participating in torture. A German citizen captured and tortured.

First, Tony Lagouranis, formally of the U.S. Army, with a tip o' the hat to Andrew Sullivan.

John Conroy writes an excellent piece in the Chicago Reader where he profiles Mr. Lagouranis, now a repentant civilian:
As an army interrogator, he tortured detainees for information he admits they rarely had. Since leaving Iraq he’s taken this story public, doing battle on national television against the war’s architects for giving him the orders he regrets he obeyed.
it was lies and a lack of transparency that appear to have sent Mr. Lagouranis over the edge. In 2004, after the Abu Ghraib story broke,
CNN broadcasts played constantly in the area where the interrogators wrote their reports, and it was there, while watching congressional hearings, that Lagouranis heard Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld say that the detainees in Iraq were being treated according to the Geneva Conventions. “I also heard [Lieutenant General Ricardo] Sanchez say that dogs were never authorized to be used in Iraq.” This testimony flatly contradicted guidelines for interrogations that Sanchez, the military commander in Iraq, had issued in September and October of 2003.

“That’s when I got really pissed,” Lagouranis says. “I was like, ‘Shit, these guys are fucking us over.’”
overseas, Mr Lagouranis and his colleagues were doing what they'd been told to do, and officials at home, who knew what was going on, were denying it.

Since getting out of the military, Mr. Lagouranis, a graduate of the Great Books college, Saint John's College, has been grappling with what he did, and he'sbeen speaking out, a lot.

We'll be hearing more of Mr. Lagouranis; he has a book coming out in June.

Khaled El-Masri's tale is more distressing, at least for me. In the LA Times, he writes:
ON NEW YEAR'S EVE in 2003, I was seized at the border of Serbia and Macedonia by Macedonian police who mistakenly believed that I was traveling on a false German passport. I was detained incommunicado for more than three weeks. Then I was handed over to the American Central Intelligence Agency and was stripped, severely beaten, shackled, dressed in a diaper, injected with drugs, chained to the floor of a plane and flown to Afghanistan, where I was imprisoned in a foul dungeon for more than four months.

Long after the American government realized that I was an entirely innocent man, I was blindfolded, put back on a plane, flown to Europe and left on a hilltop in Albania — without any explanation or apology for the nightmare that I had endured.
"So what?" you ask Well, Mr. El-Masri sued the US...
The U.S. government does not deny that I was wrongfully kidnapped. Instead, it has argued in court that my case must be dismissed because any litigation of my claims will expose state secrets and jeopardize American security, even though President Bush has told the world about the CIA's detention program, and even though my allegations have been corroborated by eyewitnesses and other evidence.
He's a state secret!

In his essay, Mr. El-Masri notes a cold, hard fact:
If I were being treated fairly by the American legal system, perhaps we would not have reached the point where German prosecutors are bringing criminal charges against American citizens.
We cannot act without impunity. We can't willy-nilly kidnap people and take them to "a country where the laws don't apply" to the individual.

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