Saturday, December 10, 2011

#344 / Secrets #2

An article in the December 9, 2011 edition of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the United States government operated a clandestine prison in Romania. This prison was unique only because it was located in a major urban area. It was one of several such facilities, but the others were in remote areas in Thailand, Lithuania, and Poland.

Unbeknownst to U.S. citizens, in other words, their government operated and controlled a network of so-called "black sites." In these locations, U.S. government officials and contractors to the United States government practiced torture on people that the government tells us were "terrorism suspects." They called the torture "harsh interrogation tactics."

I have previously noted my opposition to government secrecy, pointing out that democratic self-government is in fact impossible if the people supposedly in charge of the government (the citizens) don't actually know what the government is doing. Secrecy is damaging in other contexts, too. If you click the image in today's posting, you'll be whisked to a website that points out how bank secrecy helped create the disastrous economic situation in which we now find ourselves.

I believe that there are many citizens who think that it is perfectly "OK" for government officials to apprehend people that they suspect of assisting, or being willing to assist, in acts of terrorism against the United States. Lots of citizens undoubtedly think that it would be perfectly alright to hold such people without trial, and without letting them have any communication with the outside world (no lawyer, no family, no friends to be aware of their incarceration and perhaps to give them some assistance). Many citizens probably think that it is "OK" to torture such "terrorism suspects" in secret, before any trial has proved that the person being tortured has actually done anything to threaten the safety or security of the United States.

As I remember it, former Vice President Dick Cheney has defended exactly this sort of conduct. Former Congress Member Leon Panetta, supposedly practicing a different brand of politics, has operated and defended a somewhat different program, but one based on the same principle of secrecy. Under Panetta's leadership at the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. government officials have routinely spied on people whom the government believes are "terrorism suspects." When given the correct authorization to do so (such authorization being completely secret), drone planes, carrying missiles, and operated by U.S. government personnel or contractors, then kill such suspects without trial or notification in advance. If there are others around when the missiles strike, they die, too. Again, I think lots of people support this kind of program.

Here's my plea: why don't we be honest about it? Why shouldn't the citizens who are paying for torture and secret missile strikes know about these programs? There are lots of people who support them. I'd like to think that there are lots of people who don't. You can certainly count me on that side.

We can't, however, have a democratic debate about what we should do in our collective role unless we are willing honestly to argue the facts and the options in public.

Just another news story in the Friday paper was enough to set me off! Think about it. Wouldn't you actually like to know what "your" government is doing? After all, we're the 99%.


  1. I couldn't agree more. While on this note, I thought this piece from a military M.D. written for Truthout just now might be of interest here.

  2. I encourage anyone who comes upon your comment to click through to the article on torture you reference. Thank you!


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