No matter where you stand politically, the news that the US operates a
Gulag Archipelagosecret network of eastern European torture sites should be extremely disturbing. You can defend the government on the basis that the stories might not be true, or exaggerated, but you simply can’t defend that sort of behavior, if true, by a country that claims to champion the cause of liberty. Confirming what most of us already knew, it turns out that even the practical argument for torture is bogus; people will spin any ridiculous tale in order to make the pain stop. The only possible defense now is to argue that we don’t do it.
We already know that Frist cares deeply enough about these stories to launch a leak investigation. But does he care about the allegations themselves? Apparently not.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves.
Frist told reporters Thursday that while he believed illegal activity should not take place at detention centers, he believes the leak itself poses a greater threat to national security and is “not concerned about what goes on” behind the prison walls. […]
Frist was asked if that meant he was not concerned about investigating what goes on in detention centers.
“I am not concerned about what goes on and I’m not going to comment about the nature of that,” Frist replied.
We all understand that Frist got his job because he scored highest on the loyalty-to-Bush test, and that this story will do nothing but harm to an already-radioactive president. Frist has to at least try to keep this story muzzzled, but why not use the usual channels? Have Pat Roberts promise an investigation, put some half-assed FBI team on it and let it disappear into the aether. That’s how they kept a lid on the “16 words” forgery story for going on three years now. In the meantime some convenient hate-magnet might appear, a la Dan Rather or Joe Wilson, giving the right a chance to bury the entire story in cynical invective.
With the tools of a majority party at your disposal, what’s the point of declaring outright that you don’t care? He just gave up the moral high ground without a fight. Judging by recent events, Reid’s fighting Dems will make good use of it.
Some complaints have arisen about the term ‘Gulag Archipelago.’ That is appropriate in the sense that we haven’t imprisoned millions of people. We don’t in fact know much of what happens there, but it strains credulity to think that we treat secret prisoners, lifetime guests as far as anybody knows, better than we do inmates in a public prison in the suburbs of Baghdad.
Two things to think about. First, keep in mind that we don’t just pick up “terrorists” in our sweeps. We pick up terrorists, people whose name sound like terrorists and the terrorist-adjacent. Do they all deserve torture and death? Banishment from their families without access to any legal recourse? Second, if these sites are so top-secret, and if they operate outside any known law, then it’s hard to imagine that they have a very lenient release policy. What’s to keep Shaloub the innocent shopkeeper from telling everybody about the town in Romania (or wherever) where he spent the last year? Seems safer to keep him at least until somebody decides to de-classify the program.
I can think of any number of reactions to this story. Unconcern is pretty close to the last of them.