The evil nature of our enemies has, it turns out, certain advantages — at least when secret imprisonment and torture are at stake. The Bush administration has proved adamantly unwilling to talk to, or deal with, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, except when it came to parking terror suspects we wanted tortured on his lot. In fact, the Syrians proved so handy and so eager to be good allies in the shadow world of global incarceration that U.S. officials turned over at least 7 of their prisoners to Syrian ministrations, according to a recent piece in the British Guardian.
There was nothing unique about administration reliance on the Syrians for this. From Uzbekistan to Egypt, autocratic regimes willing to torture have been destinations for CIA secret prisoner “rendering” operations. Following kidnappings or captures elsewhere on Earth, the Agency has sent planes hopscotching — sometimes thousands of miles — across the globe to our jailors of choice. Though the aircraft used were posh indeed, such assignments proved so rigorous for CIA handlers that they evidently regularly repaired to five-star hotels in Italy, on the Spanish island of Majorca, and possibly elsewhere for a little of the recuperative good life. In places like the Marriott Son Antem, a golfing resort in the Majorcan city of Palma, they could “journey to deep inner peace” (as the hotel spa advertised) at American taxpayer expense, even while on “extraordinary rendition” trips.
In fact, when it comes to what Nick Turse calls the Bush administration’s “prison planet,” little bits of news about further horrors seep out almost daily. Just in the last week, for instance, thanks to the Israeli paper Haaretz, we learned for the first time that at least some CIA rendition flights stopped at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on their way to and from Cyprus, Jordan, Morocco, and other spots east and west, north and south — and that the first case “of the United States handing Israel a world jihadi suspect” in a rendition operation has been confirmed.
At the same time, if you happened to be checking the South African press, you might have noticed a report that, a year ago, 10 unidentified men in several “luxury vehicles” — luxury being a good sign that the CIA is probably involved — pulled up in front of a home in the medium-sized town of Estcourt, ransacked it at gunpoint, shooed away the police, and then hooded and dragged off two Muslim men, one of whom was later released (thanks to the intercession of a South African lawyer). The other, Rashid Khalid, a Pakistani national, is suspected of being somewhere in the system of American secret global detention centers, but his fate remains a mystery twelve months later.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the International Red Cross, it was reported, had “its first opportunity in more than 20 months” to see hundreds of former Abu Ghraib prisoners now rehoused in a state-of-the-art multimillion dollar prison, Camp Cropper, that the Bush administration has built, almost without notice, near Baghdad International Airport.
Finally (but not exhaustively), back in our growing homeland security state, “in a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law.” The “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007,” according to Frank Morales, “allows the President to declare a ‘public emergency’ and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to ‘suppress public disorder.'”
And that’s just a modest grab bag of recent Bush administration global-incarceration news, another humdrum week on what’s increasingly coming to look like an American prison planet. These bits and pieces of information seeping out are merely suggestive of what we don’t yet know about the Bush global detention system, constructed on the fly and on the cheap, that is already, as Turse puts it, “of near epic proportions.”