Victim of CIA Kidnapping and Abuse Seeks Acknowledgement, Explanation and Apology: Remarks of Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, ACLU

November 29, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON - The outrages of the Bush Administration have been many, and the abuses of power are stacked high.

Many of those abuses of power involve concepts that can sometimes seem abstract:

  • The right of habeas corpus, the right to seek release from unlawful imprisonment.
  • The right to due process under the law.
  • The right to confront your accuser and rebut charges brought against you.

These rights sometimes seem abstract and their abuses often seem to occur out-of-sight, far away in distant lands.

But there is nothing abstract about Khaled El-Masri.

Here is a concrete example of a victim of the gross excesses of the Bush Administration.

Here is a concrete example of a human being who was treated inhumanely.

Here is a concrete example of a human being who was denied habeas. Denied due process. Held indefinitely. Not charged.

And, here is a concrete example of a victim of extraordinary rendition. A concrete example of a man tortured by the U.S. government.

This man was severely beaten, stripped, drugged, handcuffed and flown away to Afghanistan, at U.S. taxpayers' expense. Held for five months in despicable, inhumane conditions, he was subjected repeatedly to coercive interrogation. And for two of those months this administration knew he was innocent, and simply let him rot away.

Mr. El-Masri was then abandoned in Albania. He returned home to his native Germany to find that his wife and five young children had moved. They had never heard from him, and thought he had abandoned them.

As for this administration's reaction to Mr. El-Masri's lawsuit?

In a legal maneuver that is by now familiar, they claim that allowing the lawsuit to continue would expose state secrets. There's nothing secret about Mr. El-Masri now. Here's the victim. He can tell you where he was and when during his mistreatment and he can describe his harrowing, horrendous experience at the hands of our own government.

Just weeks ago, American voters spoke and we will soon have a new Congress – one that offers the promise of belatedly restoring a check on the Bush administration's pernicious abuses. The American people made this very clear: It's time to restore the Constitution.

We are heartened by the comments of Sen. Carl Levin, incoming chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said a committee priority will be looking into extraordinary rendition. The senator correctly says there have been "significant abuses" and that rendition makes us less secure rather than more, and hurts us with our allies.

We at the ACLU are revolted that our government sanctioned and carried out these atrocious actions – both the acts then and trying now to hide behind state secrets. How is it that this is happening in America? These are not the actions of a proud nation. These are actions that diminish us as a people and diminish our country, and this administration ought to be ashamed. Only justice can begin to right these wrong and ensure that we not repeat these same mistakes in the future.

More about El-Masri v. Tenet is online here:

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