Indicting Extraordinary Injustice

How is it that those who espouse the holiest of ends all too often utilize the unholiest of means? On the far end of the spectrum, certain Muslim extremists abroad seem to believe that anything goes—including suicide bombings, beheadings, and other sorts of mayhem—as they wage jihad against their enemies. Somewhere slightly to the left of these zealots on the spectrum, certain neoconservatives here seem to believe that anything goes—including torture, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and the like—as the U.S. wages its war on terror against the aforementioned extremists (and anyone who even remotely appears to support or resemble them). Both the Muslim extremists and the American neocons believe that their cause is just and righteous and the actions they take in pursuit of such justifiable. However, regardless of their beliefs, the wrongs they commit or sanction are still morally and legally wrong. They are still harmful. And, as such, they are deserving of public censure and accountability.

Fortunately, some steps in that direction are being taken in Germany, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Germany may indict U.S. agents in 2004 abduction

BERLIN — German investigators have recommended that prosecutors issue arrest warrants for 13 U.S. intelligence operatives in connection with the kidnapping, beating and secret detention of a German citizen suspected of having links to terrorist networks.

The operatives are said to have been part of a CIA-sponsored team that transported alleged terrorists to interrogation camps around the world. Investigators say the group forced a handcuffed and blindfolded Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, onto a Boeing 737 in Macedonia and flew him to Afghanistan in January 2004. Masri was never charged with a crime, and was released after five months.

German law enforcement officials said indictments could be filed as early as this week against the suspects, including four pilots, a medic and members of an operations unit. The most serious charge is expected to be kidnapping, according to an official who asked not to be named. None of the suspects, who include CIA contract employees, have been named publicly.

The Masri case has strained U.S.-German relations and led to a parliamentary investigation of allegations that German intelligence agents were involved in the abduction. Investigators also have examined discrepancies about when high-ranking government officials were informed of Masri’s fate.

The prospect of criminal charges in the Masri ordeal comes as an Italian court is deliberating whether to order the trial of 26 Americans and nine Italians implicated in the February 2003 abduction of a radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar. The Italian government may demand the extradition of the accused Americans, including the former CIA station chief in Milan, where Omar was snatched from a sidewalk.

The CIA has not commented on the Masri case, although White House, Justice Department and agency officials have argued that U.S. laws authorized such covert operations, and that they have been assured that no suspects have been tortured.

Legal experts say it is extremely unlikely the U.S. government would turn over suspects for legal proceedings in either Germany or Italy.

Both cases have outraged lawmakers across the Continent and underscored the legal and human rights questions dividing the U.S. and Europe on countering terrorism. But they also have indicated that some European governments may have been complicit in the CIA program, known as “extraordinary renditions,” to capture and transport suspected militants to secret prisons for interrogations that sometimes included torture. [full text]