Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Victim Of Extraordinary Rendition Held For 6 Years, Never Charged With A Crime

The New York Times reported about the case of Muhammad Saad Iqbal, (left) who was arrested in 2002 in Jakarta after Indonesian intelligence heard him boasting to an Islamic group that he knew how to make a shoe bomb. After the information was passed to the C.I.A., Mr. Iqbal underwent two days of interrogation. American officials concluded that he was a "braggart" and "wannabee" and should be released.

Nevertheless, Iqbal was sent to Egypt for further interrogation under the Bush administration's practice of extraordinary rendition, which sends detainees to countries that practice torture. Iqbal said he was "beaten, shackled, covered with a hood, subjected to electric shocks and, because he denied knowing Mr. Bin Laden, deprived of sleep for six months."

Eventually Iqbal wound up in Guantanamo, where he was "diagnosed with a perforated left eardrum, inflammation of the left external ear canal and inflammation of the left middle ear." He arrived home in Pakistan with his left ear severely infected, had difficulty walking and was dependent on antibiotics and antidepressants. 

Mr. Iqbal must have been a dangerous criminal, right? He was ultimately judged as follows:

Mr. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime, or even charged with one. He was quietly released from Guantánamo with a routine explanation that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant, part of an effort by the Bush administration to reduce the prison’s population.

"No longer"? Beyond his bragging, was he ever an "enemy combatant"? Iqbal is now suing the U.S. government for unlawful detention and has also filed a lawsuit for the release of his medical records in Guantanamo to confirm his accounts of torture in Egypt.

Extraordinary rendition has perhaps been the most disgraceful aspect of the torture policies of an administration whose former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, supposedly charged with enforcing the law, stated that the Geneva Conventions were “quaint.” During extraordinary rendition, we have no control over what happens to a detainee sent abroad. We do know, however, that we have sent a prisoner to a country that practices torture. That in itself makes us complicit in whatever happens.

Barack Obama recently named Leon Panetta, former congressman and White House chief of staff, to be C.I.A. director, after the president-elect had difficulty naming someone from within who was not tainted by association with Bush administration policies. There has been criticism of the pick due to the fact that Panetta is an outsider. John McCone, during the Kennedy administration, and George H.W. Bush, during the Nixon administration, however, also came in as outsiders.

Judging by two of his statements, Panetta demonstrates that he brings to the post an orientation that's a welcome change from the past eight years:

“Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise.” 

“We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.”

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