Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Unluckiest Bastard in the World

On New Year's Eve 2003, Macedonian authorities took Khaled Masri off a bus at the Macedonian border. Masri said he was travelling to Macedonia to blow of steam after a row with his wife. He was taken to a motel in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, where he was held by Macedonian police for 23 days.

On the 23rd day he was taken to the airport, handcuffed and blindfolded. There he was handed over to the CIA. His clothes were cut off, he was (probably) given an enema, drugged and flown to Afghanistan. He found himself in an Afghan prison:

The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: "You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know."

By May, the CIA learned that Masri was not a terrorist; he was just some bloke whose name was a lot like a terrorist's:

... the question was: Now what? Some officials wanted to go directly to the German government; others did not. Someone suggested a reverse rendition: Return Masri to Macedonia and release him. "There wouldn't be a trace. No airplane tickets. Nothing. No one would believe him," one former official said. "There would be a bump in the press, but then it would be over."


Several intelligence and diplomatic officials said Macedonia did not want the CIA to bring Masri back inside the country, so the agency arranged for him to be flown to Albania. Masri said he was taken to a narrow country road at dusk. When they let him off, "They asked me not to look back when I started walking," Masri said. "I was afraid they would shoot me in the back."
(Dana Priest in the Washington Post)

I'm trying to look on the bright side of life at the moment, so I've decided not to be shocked, stunned and appalled. The way I see it, Costa Gavras could get a cracker of a political thriller out of this little saga.

Postscript - here's another choice bit from the report:

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons -- referred to in classified documents as "black sites," which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.

In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CTC was the place to be for CIA officers wanting in on the fight. The staff ballooned from 300 to 1,200 nearly overnight.

"It was the Camelot of counterterrorism," a former counterterrorism official said. "We didn't have to mess with others -- and it was fun."

I think the best way to cope with revelations like this is to sing a happy little song.

They get round in the dead of night
They'll come for you if you don't do everything right
You're gonna be the sorry one
'Cause spies just wanna have fun
Oh spies just wanna have

That's all they really want
Some fun
You'd best look out for number one
'Cause spies - they want to have fun
Yeah spies just want to have fun

(With no apologies to Cyndi Lauper - after all, she's never bloody apologised to me)

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