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Secret prisons: a victory for al Qaeda

Perhaps no symbol of America contains more meaning than the U.S. Constitution. The National Archives describes the document as ‘a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.’
That document, or at least its meaning, is wounded, a casualty of the ‘Global war on terror.’ Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi baited the trap.
Attempting to circumvent the Constitution, the CIA has created secret U.S. prisons on foreign soil, including several democracies in Eastern Europe. Our great nation has stepped in a new direction, and the footing is slippery.
The secret prisons and their secret prisoners, held with no trial and presumed guilty until dead, bring to mind a similar contribution Joseph Stalin made to the Soviet Union. History was not kind.
How bad does someone have to be to go to this CIA realm of nonexistence?
The original standard was lowered or ignored in some cases, current and former intelligence officials said, resulting in imprisonment of some whose connection to terrorism is ‘uncertain.’
This apathetic approach to imprisonment is reminiscent of Abu Ghraib where many hundreds of prisoners were released shortly after the abuse scandal there. Those released, the U.S. military said, committed no serious or violent offenses.
Yet, they were incarcerated.
One hopes the misdeeds of those being held in the CIA prisons are more severe as they have no trial coming, no attorney, no possibility of parole. But don’t expect to find many who can confirm or deny any assertions about the secret prison system.
The Washington Post reports ‘even basic information about the system was kept secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA’s covert actions.’
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert called for a congressional investigation, but they aren’t interested in letting the sun shine onto the creation and inner workings of the prisons.
No, they are angry because someone let the newspapers in on the secret. It’s time to find out who told, and then it’s time for punishment.
Forgive Valerie Plame and me if we doubt Republicans on Capitol Hill take CIA confidentiality so seriously.
Frist and Hastert sound a little like Sen. James Inhofe who was ‘more outraged by the outrage’ than the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
As Senate majority leader, Frist said he is privy to classified information and discussions about prison activity, the Associated Press reported.
‘I’m going to make sure that everything that’s done is consistent with the Constitution … and the laws of the United States of America,’ he said, explaining why he wasn’t concerned about the existence or even conditions of the CIA prisons.
But Frist was Senate majority leader for many months before systematic abuse at Abu Ghraib was first investigated in the fall of 2003. Frist would deny any prior knowledge of those activities, I am sure.
And Frist is either a fool or a liar to promise consistency with the Constitution. And he is no fool.
The secret prisons are unconstitutional and do operate outside the law. Those were actual criteria for the site selections. That’s the whole point of the secret-prison-on-foreign-soil concept.
Officials first considered holding the prisoners on ships in international waters, the Post said.
And some prisoners were moved from Guant’namo Bay after the Supreme Court, in a highly publicized case, Rasul v. Bush, ruled that the constitution applies even to those held at the military base.
If it’s not enough that they are illegal, think about the clash with our ‘objective.’ We are waging a war to spread freedom, and someone let the cat out of the bag about the secret prisons we have opened in a handful of democracies. Those host nations also have laws against this sort of thing.
How does this even happen?
Think really hard back to the high school government lesson about the executive, legislative and judicial branches and how those three provide a system of checks and balances.
Well, freedom lovers in our executive branch and select political allies are attempting to enjoy a tremendous amount of freedom from the oversight of Congress and the Supreme Court, like a sheriff keeping prisoners in a basement instead of the county jail.
The power being exercised on this issue is near absolute.
Al Qaeda, on the other hand, must surely feel encouraged. The Patriot Act and heightened airport security were only minor disruptions to life among free people, but secret imprisonment …
Now we’re talking.

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