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December 07, 2005

'The Sky Is Black With Planes?'
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

In my bucolic 70s-80s suburban childhood, that was how the execs at the Fortune 500 media company where my dad worked described the cascading chains of management transfers among media properties.

Today, though, I'm looking at some of the CIA-torture-plane reporting coming out of Europe, counting up the national inquiries -- the BBC and Le Monde between them report eight into CIA activities on or over their territories -- and thinking two things.  First, the scandal is going to stay alive and bedevil our relations with Europe for a long time, as these national inquiries feed off each other.  In addition to the eight above, questions have been raised in Austria, Italy, Germany and the UK that I know of.   Der Spiegel and The Guardian reported 437 CIA flights to Germany since September 11, and 210 into Britain.

Second, that sounds like a lot more activity and many more flights than would have been needed for the 26 "ghost detainees" Human Rights Watch has listed.  The Washington Post said earlier this week that there had been eight prison facilities, which seems to suggest rather more than 26 individuals.

An NYU Law School report suggested there had been about 150 renditions.  The Washington Post said this week that the CIA had "captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several key leaders of Al Qaeda, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks."

It sure sounds as if we've created a network (now removed from Europe and being re-established in North Africa) that could handle all of those 3,000.

Former CIA agent (and formerly Anonymous) Michael Scheuer wrote earlier this year that he had founded and run the renditions program in the Clinton years, that it has been "a tremendous success," and that

in 1998 and today, the agency is executing operations under those orders only after they are approved by a vast cohort of lawyers at the security council, the Justice Department and the C.I.A. itself.

I hope we will not find out that the number of individuals so treated runs in the thousands, not the hundreds or dozens.  I look forward to the explanation of how it is that our terrorist enemies, who operate in small cells and share almost no operational information among them, has nonetheless generated so many, many operatives whom it is imperative for our national security that we torture, or allow to be tortured by others.  And I will wait until I get it to share my thoughts on how easily the best motives are sullied and the easiest path is substituted for the most just one.   


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