Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Next Constitutional Outrage Is A Doozy.

In his prepared statement today thanking congress for caving into him, President Bush closed with a paragraph that was extremely odd.

When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Alleged to have assisted our nation? Leaving that aside for a moment, what the President is asking for is civil immunity for people who have done things that could cost them money in response to a lawsuit.

At first blush, one might think this is a "nobody can sue Halliburton bill" offered up by VP Cheney. The alleged language though leads me to suspect that he is referring to individuals and companies that are suspected of acts that are in violation of the constitution and human dignity.

The first place to look would be the private planes offered up to the CIA either through front companies of their own, or leased out, that "renditioned" prisoners to other countries to be tortured. These people were charged with no crime, and these planes were used to "allegedly" facilitate human rights violations against them.

There must be some judge out there who would listen to a claim by a victim of this torture who couldn't sue George Bush and the CIA because of their immunity, but the private corporation or individual involved in the effort would have less of a claim of privilege.

Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and 'disappearance', shows that the CIA has exploited aviation practices that would otherwise require their flights to be declared to aviation authorities. The report lists dozens of destinations around the world where planes associated with "rendition" flights have landed and taken off -- and lists private airlines with permission to land at US military bases worldwide.

Amnesty International has records of nearly 1,000 flights directly linked to the CIA, most of which have used European airspace; these are flights by planes that appear to have been permanently operated by the CIA through front companies. In a second category, there are records of some 600 other flights made by planes confirmed as having been used at least temporarily by the CIA.

One case that won't make the President nervous would be that of Maher Arar. He was a Canadian citizen, who was stopped over in the USA on a layover in NY, kidnapped and flown to Syria through Jordan to be tortured. The rub was that he was innocent of any connection to terrorism according to a lengthy investigation by the Canadian government.

On Oct. 8, he was flown to Jordan in an American government plane and taken overland to Syria, where he says he was held for 10 months in a tiny cell and beaten repeatedly with a metal cable. He was freed in October 2003, after Syrian officials concluded that he had no connection to terrorism and returned him to Canada. . . .

Evidence presented to the commission, said Paul J. J. Cavalluzzo, its lead counsel, showed that the F.B.I. continued to keep its Canadian counterparts in the dark even while an American jet was carrying Mr. Arar to Jordan. The panel found that American officials “believed — quite correctly — that, if informed, the Canadians would have serious concerns about the plan to remove Mr. Arar to Syria.”

There are scores of people sent overseas who did not fly on government planes. There are also those who flew on planes that were "owned" by private companies which are likely not private, but CIA front companies. If these companies are sued, they are in effect shut down, or the government will have to use funds to pay off the victims rather than admitting covert operations.

President Bush is insisting that congress roll over once again to immunize these "alleged" assistance givers. Please call your congress members with a simple answer.

No. Not in my name anymore.