A Congressman wrote to the CIA looking for answers about his state’s role in an illegal program that unlawfully detained and tortured hundreds of Muslims, but his late and limited election-time appeal smacks of political showmanship.
Democratic Congressman David Price wants the CIA to come clean about its Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program which detained, interrogated, disappeared, and tortured potentially thousands of Muslims at CIA “black sites” around the world from the fall of 2001 until 2009 when its discovery led to its notorious end.
In a letter addressed to CIA director Gina Haspel last week, the North Carolina representative and chairman of the Transportation and HUD appropriations subcommittee asked for more details about his state’s role in the covert operation, requesting the release of certain classified materials pertaining to the use of North Carolina facilities and residents in the rendition process.
Price raises important questions that remain unanswered despite several years of research and pressure by activist organizations and journalists into the still elusive truth about the systematic policy of kidnapping and torture instituted via a secret memorandum signed by George W. Bush only six days after the events of September 11, 2001.
Congressman Price frames his letter to Haspel in terms of concern for the people of his home state of North Carolina, which is enough to embody at least the pretense of justice. But, given the unspeakable suffering and horrors visited upon the unknown number of innocent victims of the RDI program, Price’s late and limited election-time appeal smacks of political showmanship.
Laudable as the Congressman’s efforts may be, they still fall short of probing the darkest truths behind the RDI program, which threaten to expose the American war machine and the interests that motivate it.
Vacation in Macedonia
Khaled El-Masri was about to ring in 2004 in one of the oldest parts of the old world when he was forcibly abducted by a crew of seven or eight armed men and held in a hotel for 23 days. It would mark the beginning of a heart-wrenching ordeal for El-Masri, a German-Lebanese citizen who never imagined his vacation in Macedonia would include a nearly five-month layover in a CIA torture facility.
According to investigators with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed a lawsuit on his behalf in 2007, El-Masri was chained, hooded, drugged and flown to the American-occupied city of Kabul in Afghanistan via Baghdad aboard a Boeing aircraft with a tail number registered in North Carolina. He was held in a small concrete cell inside a former brick factory outside of Kabul with no bed for the following five months, where he was beaten, tortured, and interrogated by Arabic-speaking men about his supposed and never-proven links to the September 11 hijackers. In May of 2004, El-Masri was flown to Albania and unceremoniously dumped in the foreign country to fend for himself.
His story was repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times with baselessly targeted Muslims, including children and pregnant women, who were abducted by CIA-backed mercenaries under the auspices of the RDI program. The official number of victims acknowledged by the U.S. government sits at just over 100 people, but the full scope of the covert torture operation has yet to be revealed since the government’s own Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program remains classified.