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The Torture of an Innocent Man

For those of you who didn’t catch 60 Minutes‘s heartbreaking story and interview about Murat Kurnaz’s, a German national who spent five years detained and tortured by the United States, you can read the print story here. The long and short of it is this:

At the age of 19, Murat Kurnaz vanished into America’s shadow prison system in the war on terror. He was from Germany, traveling in Pakistan, and was picked up three months after 9/11. But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one.

I won’t excerpt the rest, because you really need to read the whole thing to grasp the horror of the five years that Kurnaz, a citizen of one of our most valued allies, went through in U.S. custody. He was tortured, denied counsel for three years, and kept in inhumane conditions, this despite the fact that shortly after he was detained his innocence was already determined. Not that it would have been justified to treat a guilty man this way, either. Due process is one of the cornerstones of America’s founding principles–one that is degrading every year.

(link via Matthew Yglesias)

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About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    He was tortured, denied counsel for three years, and kept in inhumane conditions, this despite the fact that shortly after he was detained his innocence was already determined. Not that it would have been justified to treat a guilty man this way, either. Due process is one of the cornerstones of America’s founding principles — one that is degrading every year.

    Give me a break. If they didn’t torture this guy, he may have killed thousands of innocent people and we would have had a repeat of 9/11.

    Sometimes there are “known unknowns.” If we had let the fact that we don’t have evidence for something get in our way of acting, we would likely all be speaking Arabic right now.

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  2. Bob says:

    Everyone “knows” that all who have been swept up in US rendition program are innocent. Just ask them.

    And if this (60 Minutes report) is true then he will no doubt be suing the US government for large sum of money.

    But lets switch things a bit. Say he was same German innocent civilian who was picked up by AQ. Just what would his fate be today? It would be “a German citizen was beheaded on video today…”

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  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Everyone “knows” that all who have been swept up in US rendition program are innocent. Just ask them.

    In this instance, his innocence was established by the U.S. military, the FBI, and German intelligence. They kept him detained for five years and tortured him anyway.

    And if this (60 Minutes report) is true then he will no doubt be suing the US government for large sum of money.

    Good! He deserves to be compensated.

    But lets switch things a bit. Say he was same German innocent civilian who was picked up by AQ. Just what would his fate be today? It would be “a German citizen was beheaded on video today…”

    “Not as bad as al-Qaeda” isn’t exactly a moral aspiration. I’d rather live up to George Washington’s example of humane treatment and due process for prisoner’s of war. You know–the American and patriotic way of doing things.

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  4. Anon says:

    Everyone “knows” that all who have been swept up in US rendition program are innocent. Just ask them.

    Okay, so you happen to know they are all guilty? Because you trust the government to never do any wrong? Mistakes are made even with the much higher standard of guilt we use for criminal proceedings.

    I’m not going to claim that we can must use the same procedures we use for crime as on the battlefield. That would be ridiculous. There is no need to read Miranda rights to an insurgent planting an IED before shooting him.

    But there does need to be some transparent mechanisms for mistakes to be addressed.

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  5. Michael says:

    veryone “knows” that all who have been swept up in US rendition program are innocent. Just ask them.

    I would, but nobody seems to know where we’ve been taken.

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  6. davod says:

    “But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one.”

    An alternate view of Kurnaz is provided here in a 21 Jun 2007 article by John Rosenthal: Guantanamo Tales: Murat Kurnaz in the German Media.(I tried sending the link but was informed that my post was trapped in the spam filter)

    With regard to his innocence the following is included:

    “Indeed, it is commonly asserted that American authorities had cleared him of all suspicion of connections to terrorism already in 2002. This claim is plainly contradicted by a 2004 Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) ruling that on the basis of both classified and unclassified materials upheld his classification as a Qaida-linked “enemy combatant.”

    With regard to torture:
    “It is striking that none of the German media here cited seek to balance their reports by obtaining comment from the U.S. military on Kurnaz’s allegations. Presented by World Politics Review with a selection of Kurnaz’s claims as excerpted from the Radio Bremen TV and ZDF reports, a Pentagon spokesperson dismissed them as “fictitious.” “We should all remember,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon continued, pointing to the so-called “Manchester Manual”,”that al-Qaida training manuals encourage their members to lie, to make abuse allegations in order to garner public sympathy, whether it’s for their release or even after they’re gone, just to undermine the mission of what we’re doing in the United States.”

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  7. By no means do I trust our, or any, government when it comes to such matters, but some folks seem a little too anxious to accept a complaint like this without the unseemly contamination of any grains of salt. FWIW, it’s not like I’m going to trust the people at CBS any more than I trust our government.

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  8. Bob says:

    “I’d rather live up to George Washington’s example of humane treatment and due process for prisoner’s of war. You know — the American and patriotic way of doing things.”

    The Washington example of humane treatment would be to hang those found conducting operations against American troops while not in uniform. And it was done within several days, not several years. The British example was to intern you on a British warship for years, without trial.

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  9. Tlaloc says:

    What I find fascinating is the utter silence on the right so far. Has anyone seen a right wing blog (and I do not include OTB under that label, think Powerline or Hotair or Redstate) touch this with the proverbial ten foot pole?

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  10. davod says:

    I thought this was a right wing blog!

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  11. Steve Plunk says:

    Davod has done a very thorough job of showing why this is a non-news story. Charles Austin completes the picture by pointing out what normal skeptics would observe. Bob adds the cherry on top with a description of context; non-citizen enemy combatant and how they have historically dealt with.

    There is a sizable majority of Americans who reasonably believe we should not be extending constitutional protections to non-citizens. Yet we continue to be treated to stories such as this and are expected to express outrage. I don’t get it.

    Many on the right won’t touch this because it’s a waste of time. Baseless accusations of torture and questions surrounding guilt. The left jumps on this less because of human rights violations but more because it could embarrass the government. I am tired of such nonsense. There are more serious matters to be concerned with.

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  12. Wayne says:

    Kurnaz story is a little suspicious. He claimed “he was hoisted up on chains suspended by his arms from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar for five days. “Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down.”
    According to web sources hanging by ones arms without any support would results in death in a relative short time.
    “Once deprived of support and unable to lift himself, the condemned would die within a few minutes.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion

    Maybe Kurnaz was suspended with chains wrap around under his armpits or some other contraption but why not say that? One good lying technique is not to go into details because that can trip you up.

    What is the truth in this case? I am not sure but I’m not going to take either side word for it.

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  13. Jim Henley says:

    Alex, does James pay you for blogging here? Enough?

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  14. glasnost says:

    There are more serious matters to be concerned with.

    It could have been you. That’s how low the standard of evidence was. There’s nothing more serious than that, but your mindless grudge against “the mainstream media” won’t let you open your eyes.

    Things like this make it empirically accurate to say that it is unsafe to be a Muslim in this country.

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  15. Matt says:

    Wayne : There is a substantial difference between crucification and hanging someone by their arms (just ask any BDSM enthusiast)..

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  16. Wayne says:

    Matt
    Yes there is. Crucifixion and BDSM enthusiast can do it in such a way that it won’t kill the person participating in it in a short period of time. Hanging from a ceiling by your arms without some other support will kill you long before 5 hours.

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  17. Tom Traina says:

    And if this (60 Minutes report) is true then he will no doubt be suing the US government for large sum of money.

    He could try, but so far all the people who’ve done so already have been stopped dead in their tracks by the State Secrets evidentiary privilege.

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  18. Tom p says:

    So….

    for those who say “it is not that bad (Kit “backstroke” Bond) or those who say “5 mins would kill you”…

    who wants to try it?

    for those who cite the findings of a “CSRT” in which “secret” evidence is given…

    who wants to subject themselves to the same “rules of court”???

    C’mon guys… this is America… land of the free and home of the brave…

    or neither.

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  19. This was a good read. Interestingly I was surprised at how much that bit affected people! That is good, really good!

    It also proves how jaded I’m becoming. I have a blog http://freedetainees.org and I research different detainees, post stories and actions, letter writing, petitions and so forth. I also post related news.

    It’s all I do, I’m not working right now, so all my time goes to that. I am either reading, researching, writing, or posting and so…. when I saw his part of the interview I thought that it was in no way strong enough. So many things could have been said and were not. I am afraid a lot of people are going to say ah,, one time deal, he was lying or whatever.

    In fact I have seen those types of comments. It makes me want to scream.

    So.. it’s great that you posted this article and it’s good to see the positive comments!

    Take Care,
    Linda

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  20. [...] when will charges be filed against the person or people who caused or allowed this to occur? As Alex Knapp writes, this was “a citizen of one of our most valued allies [who] was tortured, denied counsel for [...]

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