Wikileaks Release Reveals Meeting About ACLU Client Khaled El-Masri
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NEW YORK – The Bush administration pressured Germany not to prosecute CIA officers responsible for the kidnapping, extraordinary rendition and torture of German national Khaled El-Masri, according to a document made public Sunday night by Wikileaks. The document, a 2007 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, describes a meeting during which the then-deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Germany, John M. Koenig, urged German officials to "weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S." of issuing international arrest warrants in the El-Masri case.
In 2003, El-Masri was kidnapped from Macedonia and transported to a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan where he was held for several months and tortured before being dumped on a hillside in Albania. The American Civil Liberties Union brought a case in the U.S. on El-Masri's behalf in 2005, charging that former CIA director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct and abuse El-Masri. Lower courts dismissed the lawsuit on state secrecy grounds, and in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. In 2008, the ACLU filed a petition on El-Masri's behalf against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but the government has failed to respond. To date, no top U.S. officials have been held accountable for their role in the Bush administration torture program.
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, Litigation Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"We have long known that both the Bush and Obama administrations have shielded perpetrators of torture and rendition from accountability for their illegal acts. We now know that U.S. diplomats have also sought to shut down accountability efforts abroad. The United States' employment of diplomatic pressure to influence the legal proceedings of a democratic ally was improper and unseemly, particularly where the goal of that interference was to shield U.S. officials from accountability for torture.
"Even as many of our closest allies have acknowledged and addressed their official complicity in the Bush administration's human rights abuses, the United States has yet to reckon with its legacy of torture. The best way to restore our standing in the world, reassert the rule of law and strengthen our democracy is to support, not obstruct, meaningful accountability for torture."
The cable released by Wikileaks concerning El-Masri is available online from the New York Times.
Update: This release originally referred users to Wikileaks.org, but that site has since become unavailable.