Saturday, May 26, 2012

"The United States government has never acknowledged any error in detaining Mr. Boumediene, though a federal judge ordered his release, for lack of evidence, in 2008."

IT was James, a thickset American interrogator nicknamed “the Elephant,” who first told Lakhdar Boumediene that investigators were certain of his innocence, that two years of questioning had shown he was no terrorist, but that it did not matter, Mr. Boumediene says.

The interrogations would continue through what ended up being seven years, three months, three weeks and four days at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. . .  [SCOTT SAYARE, NY Times May 26, 2012]

The United States claims to be a different kind of country.  A democracy that values freedom.  Our government was angry when three young American hikers were arrested in Iran after having crossed the border.  They were arrested in Iran, and it wouldn't be completely irrational for the Iranian government to wonder if they had had any contact with the CIA before entering Iran.  Our government demanded their release.   Boumediene was arrested far from US shores - in Sarajevo where he worked with orphans for the Green Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross.

Our moral high ground has been obliterated by Bush's reaction to 9/11 and the conversion of Guantanamo Bay into a 'terrorist' torture camp.  Despite campaign promises Obama has not closed Guantanamo.

American citizens are responsible for this, because we are a democracy.  We are the Board of Directors, so to speak.  And while in the private sector, such directors have found ways to avoid responsibility for their companies' misdeeds, that moral responsibility does lie squarely on them, and in this case, on us.

I've tried to pick out parts of the story that point to all the times he was declared innocent or that there was no evidence.  The rest of his story you can read in the article.  

The United States government has never acknowledged any error in detaining Mr. Boumediene, though a federal judge ordered his release, for lack of evidence, in 2008. The government did not appeal, a Defense Department spokesman noted, though he declined to answer further questions about Mr. Boumediene’s case. A State Department representative declined to discuss the case as well, except to point to a Justice Department statement announcing Mr. Boumediene’s transfer to France, in 2009. 

President George W. Bush hailed his arrest in a State of the Union address on Jan. 29, 2002.
A human being's life isn't worth anything if he can be used by a politician as a symbol of his prowess.  How many times does this have to happen before we (more than the skeptical 20 or 30%) challenge presidents who do this?  

In time, those accusations disappeared, Mr. Boumediene says, replaced by questions about his work with Muslim aid groups and suggestions that those groups financed Islamic terrorism. According to a classified detainee assessment from April 2008, published by WikiLeaks, investigators believed that he was a member of Al Qaeda and the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria. Those charges, too, later vanished. 

In a landmark case that bears Mr. Boumediene’s name, the Supreme Court in 2008 affirmed the right of Guantánamo detainees to challenge their imprisonment in court.

[T]he government’s sole claim was that Mr. Boumediene had intended to travel to Afghanistan to take up arms against the United States. A federal judge rejected that charge as unsubstantiated, noting that it had come from a single unnamed informer. 

The terms of his release have not been made public or revealed even to him.
If this article is accurate, Boumediene wasn't given an apology nor even told the terms of his release.  He's living in France, but without a passport.

Mr. Boumediene, as an American, I am ashamed at how you were treated and I offer you my sincerest apologies.   I know that isn't much, but it's something.  I understand when law enforcement, at any level, arrest someone because they have some evidence of criminal involvement.  But when they know they've made a mistake, there should be an apology, and in egregious cases like this one, some sort of compensation and assistance.  (The article says that he's getting a monthly stipend but he does not know from whom.  I'd like to think the US government is giving it, but I know that's probably wishful thinking.)

And if anyone reading this has a problem with my apology, I'd just ask how you would react if an Iranian apologized just like this to the three American hikers his country imprisoned. 

And to my American readers, we all have a responsibility for getting the US back on the right track.  If you aren't registered to vote, do it this week.  If you are, get ten others to register.  We also need to let Obama know that we aren't pleased with some of the policies that he has continued from the Bush administration.  I understand he's not dealing with a friendly Congress, but let's let him know that we want him to stand up strong for what he believes.  The majority of the American people don't need to agree with you 100%, Mr. President, they just need to know that your core values are good and that you stand firmly behind them. 


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