Not Even “Sorry ’bout that”

Khaled el-Masri is an German citizen of Lebanese descent. He tried to sue the US government because he was picked up by US agents while vacationing in Macedonia, was taken to a prison in Afghanistan where he was interrogated and beaten, and finally was taken to Albania, where he was released on a mountain trail and told, in effect, to get lost.

What happened was, he was mistaken for someone else with the same name. He was never charged with a crime, and was let go without compensation. By, again let me emphasize, by us. As in US. So he sued… no, he tried to sue he US for damages.

The US government answer? No payment. No apology. No anything, not even a denial. The US government — in the person of the judicial system — said “Up yours, el-Masri.” Not in quite those words, of course, but that’s the message. No, we can’t let you sue us.

Why? Because the Administration claims that national security would be threatened if the case continued. And the courts, all of them, accepted that claim without seeing any evidence, simply on administration say-so.

Bad enough that he was captured in the first place, but not altogether unreasonable. You know, war on terror, no stone unturned, beat the bushes and shoot anything that flies out, can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. That was the line of thinking which developed after 9/11, and the wonder may be that so few, rather than so many, innocent people got hit.

But once innocence is established, after punishment has been imposed, justice demands that compensation be made. But no. Not even an apology. We won’t talk to you, the court says, because the President says talking to you might jeopardize state secrets. What secrets? Well, we don’t know, but the President says they’re important, and he wouldn’t lie to us, would he?

We are becoming fascist state. Perhaps we already have become one.

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