How You Know You’ve Been Kidnapped by the CIA

At last we have details regarding “special rendition” (or, if you prefer, “extraordinary rendition” — a phrase which is even more doubleplusgood). This is important. If you are mistakenly kidnapped and tortured by the CIA, it’s useful to know what to expect. The intrepid Dana Priest (WaPo’s new star, now that Woodward has become Dubya’s pet hack), has written yet another remarkable exposé of the Cheney/Bush reign of (t)error — Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake. Don’t read this simply because it’s fascinating, and nauseating. Read it because it may come in handy:


Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA’s own covert prisons — referred to in classified documents as “black sites,” which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.


Right. So, let’s say you’ve just had a spat with your wife, and you take a spontaneous trip across the border to “blow off steam” — oh, and you happen to have an ordinary Arabic name — then this is a possible outcome. It is in fact what happened to Khaled Masri, an innocent German citizen.

Let’s try to picture this. You’ve taken a quick trip to clear your head, and suddenly you’re surrounded by guys dressed like ninjas, who blindfold you, cut off your clothes, give you an enema, and put you in a diaper. Which is, okay, sort of humorous. Right? Until they take you to a cell and torture you.


Masri said his cell in Afghanistan was cold, dirty and in a cellar, with no light and one dirty cover for warmth. The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: ‘You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know.’


Now, it’s hard to argue, in this case, that the coverup is worse than the crime, but it sure competes. And the suggested coverup is nothing short of mind-boggling — by comparison, enough to render credible any conspiracy theorist at his most paranoid. When the CIA recognized that they’d kidnapped and tortured the wrong man — something they’ve done a fair bit of, recently — it was crucial to figure out the PR ramifications. (Perhaps they consulted Rove.)


At the CIA, the question was: Now what? Some officials wanted to go directly to the German government; others did not. Someone suggested a reverse rendition: Return Masri to Macedonia and release him. ‘There wouldn’t be a trace. No airplane tickets. Nothing. No one would believe him,’ one former official said. ‘There would be a bump in the press, but then it would be over.’


Unbelievable. (Perhaps they consulted Ludlum?) Ah, but it didn’t happen. Well, not quite. It’s true that when Masri was released — after five months in isolation — they told him “that he would not receive any documents or papers confirming his ordeal. The Americans would never admit they had taken him prisoner.” The compromise, however, is that the German interior minister was told about Masri’s case. Of course, this polite tip came with a specific request: “that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public.”

I hope you’re taking notes. This is what can happen to you, at the hands of the Bush administration (let’s remember that this is policy): you can suddenly, for no reason, find yourself bound and stripped by masked men, drugged and imprisoned, held for an unspecified period of time — during which you will be tortured — then released with the suggestion that you keep this unfortunate business to yourself, because nobody’s going to believe you if you try to complain.

The problem is that this kind of story is no longer incredible. We do believe you. I can’t imagine that anyone seriously questions whether Masri’s tale is true — in the Age of Cheney, this is how the United States is expected to act abroad. (Not at home. If the masked men pick you up here, you’ll be shipped off to a “black site,” perhaps in Romania, where they cannot hear you scream.)

Remember when fatuous Republicans were constantly huffing, “where is the outrage?” I believe that the most fatuous of them all, the swinging gambler Bill Bennett, wrote an entire book with a title something like that. Well, I think it’s time to revive that question. Where, for Christ’s sake, is the outrage?


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