The Use of Torture – WikiLeaks

The Use of Torture – WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is releasing a great deal of information, including cables about torture, verifying the well-founded suspicions of many people. But unless something is done, the efforts of the Wiki-leakers will have been in vain.

The recent document dump of over a 250,000 US diplomatic cables, courtesy of WikiLeaks, contain harsh and diplomatically embarrassing assessments and situations facing foreign leaders.

Torture, legal accountability for crimes of state, and human experimentation are all included in the leaks. WikiLeaks revealed that in 2007 there was a cable from the US embassy in Berlin to the State Department, with the subject line: “Al-Masri Case – Chancellery Aware of USG (US government) Concerns.” This was referring to German criminal investigations into the US officials responsible for kidnapping Khaled El-Masri, a German national from Macedonia and his stay in Afghanistan where he was tortured in a CIA black site. The “concerns” refer to the anxiety among US officials, especially Condoleezza Rice (later Secretary of State), that Germany would actually enforce its own criminal laws and issue indictments for those responsible for El-Masri’s kidnapping and torture.

El-Masri, a greengrocer, was on holiday with his family in Skopje in 2003 when he was stopped by Macedonian border guards because his name is similar to that of Khalid al-Masri, an alleged mentor of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Believing his German passport was a forgery, the Macedonians contacted the CIA where a decision was made to send El-Masri to Afghanistan. The Macedonians released him then a black-ops snatch-and-grab team kidnapped him, beat and stripped him naked, gave him an enema tranquilizer, and put him on a ghost plane for Afghanistan, via Baghdad.

In Afghanistan, El-Masri was deprived of food and drinkable water and, by his account, was sodomized. A month later, local CIA agents decided that his passport might be genuine, meaning that they had kidnapped and were torturing the “wrong” person. But instead of releasing El-Masri, they kept him under detention.

After further bureaucratic bungles, Rice ordered his release in May 2004. The CIA did not know how to defuse the situation. It took a second order from Rice for El-Masri to be released and he was finally dumped, without money or papers, on the side of a remote road in Albania. If bandits had killed him the whole fiasco would have been covered up once and for all. But luckily for El-Masri Albanian police intercepted him, believed he was a German and allowed him to return home. This was a diplomatic bomb.

Amid the political scandal, the German government opened a criminal investigation. Taking samples from El-Masri’s hair, skin and nails, sufficient evidence was established that he had been repeatedly tortured and given psychoactive drugs for over six months. Investigators were convinced that he had been used as a subject of human experimentation and he suffered irreversible psychological and physical damage.

In response, the US secretly warned the German government of adverse repercussions if they allowed the case to proceed. Rice had told a Washington Post reporter that she had signed El-Masri’s ultimate release, thereby confirming the fact that she exercised ultimate control over the whole case.

The USG would have a difficult time in managing domestic political implications if international arrest warrants are issued. The Munich prosecutor, from a judicial standpoint, acted correctly and Germany examined the implications for relations with the US but the conclusion is that most of the CIA agents, who were tried in absentia, were found guilty. They can never set foot in Europe again without risk of being extradited to Italy for punishment.

This cable shows us clearly that for the US government, a “good alliance” means never holding individuals accountable for the perpetration of gross crimes. But as German criminal investigations continue, with particular focus on the use of US military facilities for criminal purposes, further embarrassment for the US is likely to happen again.