Monday, December 05, 2005

"A suspicious name"

What does it take to be kidnapped and rendered to the CIA's secret gulag as a suspected terrorist? Surprisingly little. According to an article in today's Washington Post, sometimes all it takes is a suspicious name.

Khaled Masri, a German citizen, was arrested in 2003 while entering Macedonia. The eager-to-please Macedonian security forces (the same security forces who had been murdering illegal immigrants and claiming they were "terrorists" in an effort to impress their new American friends) held him at gunpoint in a motel while waiting for the CIA to make up its mind what to do with him. Finally, after 23 days of illegal detention, he was handcuffed, blindfolded, and rendered to Afghanistan for "interrogation" - essentially on the basis of a hunch from a CIA officer. That hunch turned out to be wrong; after two months in Afghanistan (during which he was kicked, beaten, starved, and threatened with death), it was clear that Masri was not a terrorist, and that the CIA had the wrong man. Despite this, they detained him for a further three months while they made up their mind what to do with him (and how to cover up their mistake), before dumping him by a roadside in Albania. Their explanation?

On the day of his release, the prison's director, who Masri believed was an American, told Masri that he had been held because he "had a suspicious name," Masri said in an interview.

So, rendition and five month's detention for having a suspicious name. Comrade Stalin would be proud.