Thursday, March 15, 2007

State of secrets

A whole lot of secrets going on: The U.S. executive has tried to keep Guantánamo detainees from telling attorneys about interrogations they endured, on the ground that the methods used are state secrets. The same state secrets argument persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to throw out the lawsuit of a German released after he was snatched from a bus in Macedonia, held in a U.S.-run Afghanistan prison, and dumped in Bosnia -- all because of, as the United States itself has admitted, a case of mistaken identity. The dismissal led Khalid el-Masri to write what ought to have been obvious: "I am not a state secret."
Now, a burst of ostensible candor. The Department of Defense has released transcripts that purport to contain confessions of alleged Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- confessions to planning the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, and a laundry list of other plots, consummated and otherwise.
The heinous nature of such deeds ought not obscure the manipulation of secrecy evident today in every news medium. Revealed so far is what the executive wants known of what was said; the rest remains secret. The comments took place in a Combat Status Review proceeding that itself was shrouded in secrecy of state, and that occurred years after Mohammed was arrested and then held, as President George W. Bush himself has admitted, in secret prisons.
If Mohammed committed any crime to which he is now said to have confessed, he deserves to be brought to full account -- not just before a court of public opinion, but rather before a court of justice that applies accepted standards in a manner that is both fair and transparent.

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